Leg / Arm, Lower Back, Neck, Upper Back
Spinal stenosis occurs when one or more areas of the spine narrow and put pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves. This compression can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the extremities. Spinal stenosis can be caused by arthritis, or the degeneration of joints. As the discs settle, collapse, or lose space or height, pressure is transferred to the facet joints that can cause arthritis in the hip and knee joints as well. The degeneration of the discs and joints eventually cause cartilage to wear away possibly resulting in bone rubbing on bone. This may trigger the body to grow new bone to support the vertebrae thus causing an even further narrowing of the spine and lessening the space for nerves where painful symptoms can result.
Diagnosis is made upon examination of the back while imaging tests can be used to confirm diagnosis.
Lumbar stenosis is the narrowing of the spine in the lower back. It is most commonly caused by aging, when the disc degenerates and loses water content. This results in the space between the discs in the vertebrae settling or collapsing causing symptoms in the lower back or legs. Symptoms include aching, numbness, pain and cramping in back and legs. Pain is usually worse with standing and walking and improves with sitting or leaning forward. (See Neurogenic Claudication)
Thoracic stenosis is the narrowing of the spine in the upper back. Pain can occur anywhere from the neck to the waist and can radiate to other areas, such as the ribcage or other organs, as well. Thoracic stenosis is most commonly caused by aging.
Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the spine in the neck. This can be caused by the normal “wear and tear” to the spine as a result of aging, while some patients are born with a narrow canal. It most commonly occurs in patients over the age of 50. Many patients have a history of trauma or injury that may have occurred in the past and can show symptoms much later. Symptoms include numbness, weakness, and pain in arms, balance and coordination issues, neck pain. Please see other terms (myelopathy, radiculopathy)