Spinal stenosis results from new bone and soft tissue growth on the vertebrae, which reduces the space in the spinal canal. Although it may occur anywhere in the spinal canal, it typically affects the lumbar and cervical areas. While lumbar stenosis is more common, cervical stenosis is often more dangerous because it involves compression of the spinal cord. Cervical stenosis is a slow, progressive condition that pinches the spinal cord. Lumbar stenosis can lead to lower extremity (leg) symptoms such as pain or numbness due to compression of nerve roots in the lower back.
Spinal stenosis is frequently due to chronic degeneration but may also be congenital. Aging, arthritis, heredity, instability, tumors, and trauma may all lead to spinal stenosis.
Cervical stenosis may lead to serious symptoms such as arm, hand or leg numbness or weakness/paralysis; in many cases it manifests as gait instability. In lumbar spinal stenosis when the nerve roots, not the spinal cord, are pinched, a painful burning, tingling and/or numbing sensation is felt from the lower back down to the legs and sometimes all the way to the feet, typically brought about by walking and relieved with sitting.
Non-surgical treatments include weightloss, physical therapy, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Treatment is often surgical for patients with significant symptoms.