Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) areas of the spine. The bones of the spine (the vertebrae) start from the skull and continue down to the pelvis to create a tunnel that contains the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots. The spinal canal itself is made from an opening in the back of each vertebra. The narrowing of the spinal canal causes pressure on the spinal cord and on the nerves of the spine, leading to back pain and other disabling symptoms.
Spinal stenosis is most often associated with arthritis; herniated discs; trauma to the nerve roots or the spinal cord; degeneration due to aging; or poor posture over time. This condition usually presents as pain in the back, thighs, calves, neck, or shoulders and arms as well as weakness in the extremities. Severe cases of spinal stenosis might also cause balance issues and bowel and bladder dysfunction.
When back pain of any kind occurs, it is advisable to seek treatment as soon as possible. For cases of back pain related to spinal stenosis, symptoms gradually worsen over time; the sooner the causative factor is addressed, the better the prognosis.