Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the openings (called neural foramina) where spinal nerves leave the spinal column.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Spinal stenosis usually occurs as a person ages and the disks become drier and start to bulge. At the same time, the bones and ligaments of the spine thickens or grow larger due to arthritis or long-term swelling (inflammation).
Spinal stenosis may also be caused by:
- Arthritis of the spine, usually in middle-aged or elderly people
- Bone diseases, such as Paget's disease of bone and achondroplasia
- Defect or growth in the spine that was present from birth (congenital defect)
- Herniated or slipped disk, which often happened in the past
- Injury that causes pressure on the nerve roots or the spinal cord
- Tumors in the spine
Often, symptoms will get worse slowly over time. Most often, symptoms will be on one side of the body or the other, but may involve both legs.
Numbness, cramping, or pain in the back, buttocks, thighs, or calves, or in the neck, shoulders, or arms
Weakness of part of a leg or arm
Symptoms are more likely to be present or get worse when you stand or walk. They will often lessen or disappear when you sit down or lean forward. Most people with spinal stenosis cannot walk for a long period of time.
Patients with spinal stenosis may be able to ride a bicycle with little pain.