Spinal stenosis is a condition caused from the vertebral column constricting and exerting pressure on the spinal cord or neural foramen (a bony tunnel through which a nerve exits the spinal cord). It usually affects the cervical and lumbar spine. If the spinal canal is narrowed, the disorder is called cervical/lumbar central stenosis. If the foramen is narrowed, it is referred to as cervical/lumbar foraminal stenosis.
The possible causes for spinal stenosis include:
- Age: As a result of aging, wear and tear on the spine causes narrowing of the bone.
- Inflammation of the bone joint such as in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may affect the spine.
- Heredity: Some individuals are born with narrowing of the spinal canal (congenital). Structural malformations of the involved backbone can cause narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebra glides forward over the one below causing narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Tumors of the spine.
- Injury or trauma may either dislodge the spinal canal or cause fractures that produce bone pieces which may penetrate the canal. At times, injury compresses the nerve roots that can lead to severe pain.
Spinal stenosis may result in lower back pain and pain down the legs. The common symptoms include:
- Pain with prolonged sitting or standing
- Gait disturbances
These symptoms usually gradually progress and worsen over time.