Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is located in the backbone. It is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If this space becomes smaller, it can squeeze the nerves and the spinal cord. This causes pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord. It is most common in the low back (lumbar) region.
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Spinal stenosis may cause:
- Numbness, weakness, cramping, or pain in the legs and thighs
- Radiating pain down the leg
- Abnormal bowel and/or bladder function
- Decreased sensation in the feet causing difficulty placing the feet when walking
- Loss of sexual function
- Partial or complete paralysis of legs
Medications that relieve pain and inflammation include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Corticosteroid injections
Special exercises can help stabilize the spinal cord. Exercise can increase muscle endurance and mobility of the spine. This can relieve some pain. Sometimes exercises are ineffective against spinal stenosis.
Wearing a corset or lumbar brace can help stabilize the spine. This may relieve pain.
Surgery is reserved for severe cases.
- Decompression laminectomy—This is the removal of bony spurs or increased bone mass in the spinal canal. This can free up space for the nerves and the spinal cord.
- Spinal fusion—This is when 2 vertebrae (back bones) are fused together. This will provide stronger support for the spine. This is almost always done after decompression laminectomy.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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Arthritis Foundation http://www.arthritis.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org
The Arthritis Society http://www.arthritis.ca
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org
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