Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is located in the backbone. It is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If this space becomes smaller, it can squeeze the nerves and the spinal cord. This causes pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord. It is most common in the low back (lumbar) region.
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Some people are born with narrowed canals. Most often stenosis is a result of aging. Conditions that can cause spinal stenosis include:
Factors that increase your chance of spinal stenosis include:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Special exercises can help stabilize the spinal cord. Exercise can increase muscle endurance and mobility of the spine. This can relieve some pain. Sometimes exercises are ineffective against spinal stenosis.
Wearing a corset or lumbar brace can help stabilize the spine. This may relieve pain.
Surgery is reserved for severe cases.
There are no guidelines for preventing spinal stenosis.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Arthritis Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
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 Surveillance
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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.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Teresa Briedwell, DPT, OCS
Last Updated: 12/17/2013