What Is Spinal Stenosis And What Are Its Symptoms?

In the simplest terms, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column opening. The condition is generally categorized by its origin. Congenital spinal stenosis is the condition acquired through genetics. Acquired stenosis is a result of some type of infectious disease or an immune system disorder.  Essentially it is the compression of the spine and the narrowing of the spinal cord, usually occurring due to aging and the resulting wear and tear whatever the origin of it. As the spine begins to narrow it will pinch the nerves around the spinal cord itself.

When the spine vertebrae becomes softer with aging, a disc can rupture, leading to a bulging or herniated disc that causes compression on the spinal-cord. This in turn can lead to spinal stenosis.  It is also common to see the condition arise as a result of tumours and other abnormal growths which cause pressure on the spine.

How Is Spinal Stenosis Identified?

The first reaction from most people who are informed about this condition is, “What is spinal stenosis?” Below is a video explanation of stenosis by Dr. James Hamada.

The condition is most often identified by its location: the lumbar (lower back) region, or the cervical (neck) region. These two locations, as opposed to the mid back area cause the most problems as far as spinal pain and function go. The pain of stenosis can be debilitating and considerably affect your quality of life.

The condition not only includes muscle weakness and wasting due to a significant lack of exercise and physical activity. It is one of the many conditions that mimics the effects of a bulging disc.

The Effects Of Lumbar and Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Cervic lumbar spinal stenosis pictureal spinal stenosis symptoms may include pain and numbness in the neck, shoulders, upper arms and upper back. In an advanced state cervical narrowing of the spine can cause considerable weakness in the arms.

Lumbar stenosis symptoms include lower back aching or sharp pain as well as pain that radiates down through the buttocks and into the legs. The condition can cause urinary and bowel incontinence if it is allowed to progress without treatment.


Symptoms most frequently associated with the lower back conditions are cramps and numbness in the legs. The most common form of immediate relief is simply sitting down or light stretching. It is also common to see a significant disability due to pain in the areas ranging from the lower back and hips all the way down to the bottom of the leg.

The condition in the lower back is particularly where an increase in medical costs are imposed in order to cover the condition and its symptoms. It is commonly persistent, and is regularly accompanied and caused by general aging.

Foraminal Spinal Stenosis Picture

Foraminal Stenosis is a less discussed type of spinal narrowing. It is a variation of the condition that affects specific parts of individual vertebrae.

Severe Spinal Stenosis Effects On Your Quality Of Life

The effects of spinal stenosis on the nerves of the spine is where the debilitating effect of it is produced. How severe it gets determines how much pressure is put on nerves that radiate pain up and down the skeletal system. This has a knock-on effect on other areas of the body.

According to the severity of the condition, in the lumbar or cervical regions, gone untreated, it can become significantly debilitating. Therefore it is critical to get it correctly diagnosed and proceed with a course of treatment and/or physical therapy.

Pain in the foot, weakness of the muscles, and numbness can also become very severe. This often makes it difficult for a sufferer to know when their foot is safely placed on the ground, leading to potential risk of accidents and injury.

Not every case of spinal stenosis is critical, but if left untreated it can result in nerve “death”.  This results in permanent loss of feeling and mobility. So diagnosis, therapy and other treatment are important in stopping or slowing its progression.

Answering the question, “What is spinal stenosis”?, and identifying the symptoms are the first steps in understanding it and seeking effective treatment.

Click here for our page on spinal stenosis treatment.

 When all other treatments fail, surgery may be the only option.