Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing occurs when the growth of bone or tissue or both reduces the size of the openings in the spinal bones. This narrowing can squeeze and irritate the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord . It can also squeeze and irritate the spinal cord itself. This may cause pain, numbness, or weakness, most often in the legs, feet, and buttocks.
What causes spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is most often caused by changes in the shape and size of the spinal canal as people age. For example:
- Connective tissues called ligaments get thicker.
- Joint disease called osteoarthritis leads to the growth of bony spurs that push on the spinal cord.
- Discs between the bones may be pushed backward into the spinal canal.
These conditions can lead to problems that narrow the space in the spinal canal.
How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?
Spinal stenosis can be diagnosed by asking questions about your symptoms and past health and by doing a physical exam. You will need tests such as an MRI, a CT scan, and sometimes X-rays.