Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spaces in the spine that cause pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. It is typically a result of degenerative arthritis that leads to overgrowth of bone and soft tissues that pinches on nerves, leading to pain and disability.
Spinal stenosis affects both men and women over the age of 50 years. However, it can occur in young people born with a narrow spinal canal, or those who suffer a spinal injury.
The normal vertebral canal provides adequate room for the spinal cord. With spinal canal narrowing, there is pressure on the spinal nerves and ligament stretching. This results from degenerative aging, as well as acquired conditions. When surfaces of vertebral bone project out of alignment, they can produce pain. When facet joints thicken, and bone spurs occur due to arthritis, this decreases the neural foramen, which is the space available for nerve roots. Pain occurs from impingement on these nerves.
Stenosis is actually very common in individuals over the age of 50. Typically, however, it is not symptomatic.
Symptoms associated with spinal stenosis include buttock and thigh pain, aching and possibly back pain too. When an individual with spinal stenosis walks, there is often an exacerbation of symptoms.
Spinal stenosis is diagnosed by:
Kailihmann L, Cole R, Kim DH, et al. (2009). Spinal stenosis prevalence and association with symptoms: the Framingham Study. Spine J, 9(7), 545-550.