January 01, 2012

Spinal stenosis

Pain often age related

Spinal stenosis

Just about everyone experiences back pain at some point in life. Often, this pain is felt in the lower back. For many, the pain can be relieved by simple measures or can improve on its own. But when back pain is persistent, or becomes slowly worse, it's time to look for other causes. One possible cause, especially as you get older, is spinal stenosis — a narrowing in one or more areas of your spine.

Spinal stenosis most often results from narrowing of the spinal canal that occurs over time. In fact, by age 50, most people's spines show at least some signs of age-related wear and tear of the disks and of facet joints, which can grow to be enlarged and arthritic. In some cases, these changes can put pressure on your spinal cord and nerves. This can lead to pain, numbness or weakness in your arms or legs as well as other problems that can affect your quality of life.

In severe cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery. However, conservative, nonsurgical treatments typically are used first to help relieve signs and symptoms.

The effects of time

In addition to supporting the weight of your upper body, your spine protects your spinal cord and nerves, which carry signals that control your body's movements and convey its sensations.

The bones that make up your spine are called vertebrae. These bones are stacked on top of one another, and each contains a passage through which your spinal cord...