Spinal Stenosis, Its Causes, and Symptoms

Spinal Stenosis, Its Causes, and Symptoms


The spinal cord runs through the spinal column, a segment of bones called vertebrae that give strength, support, and stability to the upper body. Spinal nerves go through openings in the vertebrae and conduct signals from the brain to the rest of the body.

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal column narrows and starts compressing the spinal cord. This process is typically gradual. If the narrowing of the spinal column is minimal, no major symptoms will be seen. Too much narrowing can compress the nerves resulting in pain, tingling, muscle weakness, and numbness. The symptoms increase after walking a certain distance and is called claudication distance. It is important to differentiate between vascular claudication i.e. claudication due to damage to arteries of lower limbs and claudication due to spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis can be (based on which part is effected more):

  • Foraminal spinal stenosis
  • Central spinal stenosis

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Symptoms typically progress over time as spinal nerve becomes more and more compressed. People might experience:

  • Arm or leg weakness
  • Lower back pain while walking or standing
  • Radiating pain in legs and arms
  • Altered gait
  • Numbness and tingling in legs and arms

What are the causes of spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs when open space between the spinal canal becomes narrow. There are many reasons for Spinal Stenosis. The common reason is arthritis.

  1. Osteoarthritis: Wear and tear of spinal joints lead to form bony spurs.  This bony growth puts pressure on the spinal cord.
  2. Herniated Disc: Disc is soft cushioning between two vertebrae. These discs tend to dry out due to age or jerk to the disc can cause escaping of inner material of disc. The escaped inner material of disc starts giving pressure on the spinal cord. 
  3. Injury: Fracture of the spine or injury to the spine can inflame the part of the spine.
  4. Tumour: Spinal Tumours or any abnormal growths in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae can cause narrowing.
  5. Some people are born with small spinal canal, in such conditions people may start noticing the symptoms between age 30-50.

What are the treatment options for spinal stenosis?

  • First-line treatments: Pharmaceutical treatment is typically tried first to recover spinal stenosis. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also help to eliminate the pain. The main goal is to relieve the person from severe pain. 
  • Spinal Injection: Cortisone injections can be injected into your spinal column that can reduce swelling over the nerves. 
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can also help eliminate pain and strengthen your muscles.
  • Surgery: Rarely Surgery is needed if there is a severe power loss.

Typically Non-Surgical Multi-Disciplinary treatment works best in spinal canal stenosis. 

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