March 01, 2019

Spinal stenosis

Painful nerve compression

Spinal canal narrowing (stenosis) most commonly occurs later in life. This is often due to osteoarthritis in the spine, which may prompt the formation of bone spurs that protrude into the spinal canal.

Spinal stenosis

It began with an occasional burning pain that started in your buttocks and ran down your legs. Now, you're noticing discomfort and weakness in that area if you walk more than a block or two. Thankfully, the pain goes away when you sit, but it's still frustrating.

The normal wear-and-tear effects of aging frequently lead to back pain. One common cause is a narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis). Fortunately, a number of treatments may help keep you on your feet.

A narrowed canal

The bones (vertebrae) in your spine form the central spinal canal, which protects the spinal cord — the primary connection between your brain and your peripheral nervous system. This central spinal canal runs from your neck to your lower back.

Some people are born with a spinal canal that's narrower than usual. But most commonly, spinal canal narrowing (stenosis) occurs later in life, especially after the age of 50. This is often due to osteoarthritis in the spine, which may prompt the formation of bone spurs that protrude into the spinal canal. Degeneration or herniation of the shock-absorbing disks between the spinal vertebrae may press into the spinal canal, as can a thickening of the ligaments supporting the spine. Less common causes of spinal stenosis include spinal injuries, tumors and Paget's disease — a disease that causes bone overgrowth.

Stenosis most often occurs in the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis), but it can also occur in the neck...