Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal is narrowed. This leads to back and leg pain that comes and goes with activities such as walking. Although stenosis can occur in all areas of the spine, it most commonly affects the lumbar (lower) spine.
Conditions that can narrow the spinal canal include wear and tear of the joints (degeneration), bone spurs, arthritis, swollen ligaments, herniated discs, facet joint enlargement, and spondylolisthesis.
Since spinal stenosis gives the spinal cord and nerves less room to move, they can become irritated and inflamed. Stenosis in the lower back can cause pain in both the back and legs, with the pain becoming worse when walking or standing for a prolonged period of time. Sitting, which can open the canal and take some pressure off the nerve roots, may ease or eliminate these symptoms.
The most common diagnostic tests are X-rays of the lower back and an MRI. In some cases, a CT scan may be ordered, in addition to an MRI or instead of one.
Spinal stenosis is a slow progressive back problem that in its early stages may respond to conservative care, such as pain medications and rest. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy and/or an epidural steroid injection (ESI). Over time, Spinal Stenosis may worsen, necessitating surgery. The main goal of any such surgery is to remove the pressure on the nerve roots in the lumbar spinal canal. In the cervical spine, stenosis may sometimes require decompression from the front, back, or both front and back of the spine, depending on the severity of the stenosis.
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