Know the basics

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a disorder caused by a narrowing of spaces in the spine (backbone). This narrowing causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. The lower back and the neck are the most two common parts that are affected by spinal stenosis. However, this condition can occur anywhere on the spine. The severity of the symptoms depend on damage rate and how much the narrowing can compress the nerves.

How common is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis usually occurs in both men and women over 50 years old. Besides, people who were born with a narrowing of the spinal canal or who suffer from an injury to the spine may also get spinal stenosis.

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Symptoms start gradually. At the beginning, there may have no symptoms and when too much narrowing encroach the nerves, the condition will get worsen over time.

You will suffer from these symptoms include:

  • Continuous pain or cramping on your leg and lower back during walking, biking or standing upright. Additionally, the pain will relieve when you sit down or bend forward.
  • Numbness or tingling in a leg, foot, arm or hand. This typical symptoms can vary from person to person. The sensation can range from mild discomfort to complete numbness down the leg and into the foot.
  • Weakness or heaviness in the leg that affect the movement
  • Unsteady, easy to fall.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes spinal stenosis?

Many conditions can lead to spinal stenosis. The common causes include:

  • Aging: when people get older, the tissues that connect and support the spines may get thick and firm, the bones may get bigger and surfaces of the bones may bulge out. All of these factors will form spaces to narrow the spine.
  • Arthritis: there are two forms of arthritis may affect the spine include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Inherited conditions: some people were born with a small spinal canal, this condition will lead to spinal stenosis at young age.
  • Tumor of the spine: an abnormal mass of tissues surrounding the spinal cord grow and multiply uncontrollably. This can induce many damages in the bones and spinal column include spinal stenosis.
  • Spinal damage: car accidents or other major injuries can dislocate the bones and produce fragments of bone that penetrate the canal.

There are some more conditions can bring about spinal stenosis. However, they are very rare such as Paget’s disease of the bone, achondroplasia, spinal curvature, or scoliosis. If you need more information about these conditions, please discuss with your doctor.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for spinal stenosis?

When you are over 50 or you have a genetic disease affecting bone and muscle development throughout the body, you may at risk of spinal stenosis.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?

Spinal stenosis cannot be easy to recognize as its signs and symptoms are related to many other conditions. To diagnose spinal stenosis, your doctor will ask about your medical history and conduct a physical exam.

Some tests may be used to help identify spinal stenosis include:

  • X rays;
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a test that uses radio waves to look at your spine.
  • Computerized axial tomography (CAT), a series of x rays that give your doctor a detailed image of your spine.
  • Myelogram, in which the doctor injects liquid dye into your spinal column. The dye outlines the spinal cord and nerves, and it can reveal herniated disks, bone spurs and tumors.
  • Bone scan, a test in which you are given a shot of radioactive substance that shows where bone is breaking down or being formed.

How is spinal stenosis treated?

Nonsurgical treatments for spinal stenosis are always tried first. They may include:

  • Medicines to reduce swelling, so cortisone injections into the spinal column will be the choice.
  • Medicines to relieve pain. Doctor usually prescribe some NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen first, then some Antidepressants such as amitriptyline or Anti-seizure drugs such as gabapentin and pregabalin for persistent pain.
  • Limits on your activity.
  • Exercises or physical therapy.
  • A brace for your lower back.

When these treatments listed above are not successful, doctor may consider surgery to relieve the pressure on affected nerves permanently. Depend on the severity of your condition, doctor will chose the right surgery for you.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage spinal stenosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with spinal stenosis:

  • Pain killers such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help ease pain and inflammation.
  • Some symptoms of spinal stenosis may be relieved by applying heat or ice to your neck.
  • Diet and nutrition: keep fit and stay healthy can decrease the pressure on the spine.
  • Canes or walkers:in addition to providing stability, these assistive devices can help relieve pain by allowing you to bend forward while walking.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017