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Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of spaces in the spine (backbone) that results in pressure on the spinal cord and nerves and can cause pain. This disorder is most common in men and women over 50 years old. Younger people who were born with a narrow spinal canal or who hurt their spines may also get spinal stenosis.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
There may be no symptoms of spinal stenosis, or symptoms may appear slowly and get worse over time. Signs of spinal stenosis include:
One type of spinal stenosis, cauda equine syndrome, is very serious. This type occurs when there is pressure on nerves in the lower back. Symptoms may include:
If you have any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor right away.
To diagnose spinal stenosis, your doctor will ask about your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Your doctor may also order one or more tests, such as:
Changes that occur in the spine as people get older are the most common cause of spinal stenosis. As people get older:
In some cases arthritis, a degenerative condition, can cause spinal stenosis. Two forms of arthritis may affect the spine: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Some people are born with conditions that cause spinal stenosis. For instance, some people are born with a small spinal canal. Others are born with a curved spine (scoliosis).
Other causes of spinal stenosis are: