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.
While some people have no signs or symptoms, spinal stenosis can cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and problems with bladder or bowel function. Spinal stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to aging. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.
- Narrowing in the upper (cervical) spine can cause numbness, weakness or tingling in a leg, foot, arm or hand. In severe cases, nerves to the bladder or bowel may be affected, leading to incontinence.
- In the lower back. Compressed nerves in your lower (lumbar) spine can cause pain or cramping in your legs when you stand for long periods of time or when you walk. The discomfort usually eases when you bend forward or sit down.
The type of treatment you receive for spinal stenosis may vary, depending on the location of the stenosis and the severity of your signs and symptoms. Typically treatment will begin with the prescription of anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. If this fails steriod injections may be used to reduce pressure and inflammation.
Surgery may be considered if more conservative treatments haven’t helped, you’re disabled by your symptoms, or you’re in good health otherwise. The goal is to relieve the pressure on your spinal cord or nerve roots. In some cases, vertebrae also may need to be fused together to maintain the spine’s strength.