Spinal Stenosis is an abnormal narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal that may occur in any of the regions of the spine. With age, the spinal canal – located in the lower back – can narrow, resulting in spinal stenosis. The narrowing process, which is gradual, reduces the space available for the spinal cord and nerves. If only a small amount of spinal narrowing occurs, no pain will result. Stenosis may lead to leg pain, numbness, and/or tingling. In advanced cases, weakness may also be present.
Spinal stenosis occurs when bulging discs, arthritic spurs, and thickened tissues combine to “compress” the nerves traveling through the spinal canal.
The most common symptom of this is pain, numbness and/or tingling in legs that is pronounced when standing or walking. Leg pain and numbness may inhibit walking and the spine may lose the lumbar curve and appear flat. Because we tend to bend over slightly when we walk up hill, symptoms may be less going uphill and worse going down. Relief is typically found when you bend forward or sit. When spinal stenosis becomes severe, symptoms may become constant and permanent nerve injury may result.
Stenosis typically occurs among older adults, and arthritis and injuries can also cause the spinal cord to narrow.