Spinal stenosis

Alternative Names

Pseudo-claudication; Central spinal stenosis; Foraminal spinal stenosis

Definition of Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal cord that causes pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the openings (called neural foramina) where spinal nerves leave the spinal column.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Spinal stenosis typically develops as a person ages and the disks become drier and start to shrink. At the same time, the bones and ligaments of the spine swell or grow larger due to arthritis or chronic inflammation.

Symptoms

Often, symptoms will be present and gradually worsen over time. Most often, symptoms will be on one side of the body or the other.

Signs and tests

During the physical exam, your doctor will try to pinpoint the location of the pain and figure out how it affects your movement. You will be asked to:

Treatment

When your back pain does not go away completely, or it gets more painful at times, learning to take care of your back at home and prevent repeat episodes of your back pain can help you avoid surgery. Your doctor and other health professionals will help you manage your pain and keep you as active as possible.

Expectations (prognosis)

Many people with spinal stenosis are able to carry on active lifestyles for many years with the condition. Some change in activities or work may be needed.

Review

A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery (7/10/2009). – 5/25/2010

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Spinal stenosis

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