Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is located in the backbone and is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If this space becomes compressed, it can squeeze both the nerves and the spinal cord. This causes pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord, but is most common in the low back (lumbar) region.
Some people are born with narrowed canals, but most often, stenosis is a result of aging. Conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:
Osteoarthritis and osteophytes (bony spurs) associated with aging
Paget's disease of the bone
Factors that increase your chance of spinal stenosis include:
Being born with a narrow spinal canal
Age: 50 or older
Previous injury or surgery of the spine
Numbness, weakness, cramping, or pain in the legs and thighs
Radiating pain down the leg
Abnormal bowel and/or bladder function
Decreased sensation in the feet causing difficulty placing the feet when walking
Loss of sexual function
Partial or complete paralysis of legs
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and a physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your therapist will educate you on pain-relieving techniques, such as ice and decreasing or modifying painful activities. This diagnosis often occurs from muscular tightness or weakness which causes your posture to get out of alignment. Years of activity with poor posture can lead to damage to the structures of the spine. Your therapist will educate you on proper stretching and strengthening exercises for the back. They may perform hands on, manual therapy techniques to further increase your joint flexibility. The final phase of rehab will involve strengthening during functional activities and education to prevent the injury from recurring.
If surgery is needed, your therapist will work with you to regain your strength and range of motion through education, exercise, and manual therapy. They will teach and train you to perform functional activities with proper strength, endurance and education, helping you avoid future injury.
There are no guidelines for preventing spinal stenosis
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American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org . Accessed July 7, 2009.
Arthritis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.arthritis.org . Accessed July 7, 2009.
Berkow R.The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Home Edition. New York, NY: Merck Research Laboratories; 1999.
Questions & answers about spinal stenosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Spinal_Stenosis/default.asp . Published April 2009. Accessed July 7, 2009.
12/17/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: de Schepper El, Overdevest GM, et al. Diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis: an updated systematic review of the accuracy of diagnostic tests. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 Apr 15;38(8):E469-81.
This content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library