What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis most often occurs in adults over 60 years old. Your spine is made up of small bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another.  Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the cord and spinal nerves. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots, and may cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Arthritis is the most common cause of spinal stenosis. In the spine, arthritis can result as the disk degenerates and loses water content. Another response to arthritis in the lower back is that ligaments around the joints increase in size. This also lessens space for the nerves. Once the space has become small enough to irritate spinal nerves, painful symptoms result.

When intervertebral discs collapse and osteoarthritis develops, your body may respond by growing new bone in your facet joints to help support the vertebrae. Over time, this bone overgrowth (called bone spurs) can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal. Osteoarthritis can also cause the ligaments that connect vertebrae to thicken, which can narrow the spinal canal, causing pressure and pain.

Common Symptoms

  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica symptoms
  • Foot drop or leg weakness
  • Less pain leaning forward with sitting

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