pain that may radiate to the buttocks and legs. Pain worsens
in the buttocks and legs.
in the legs.
When To Call Your Doctor
a doctor if you have persistent pain, numbness, or weakness in
the back, legs, or neck, or if back pain accompanies changes
in bowel or bladder function.
What Is It?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal,
the cavity within the vertebral column through which the spinal
cord passes. Nerves leaving and entering the spinal cord are
called nerve roots; they pass through the vertebral column via
small canals. Arthritic changes that cause overgrowth of vertebral
bones may compress the spinal cord or the nerve roots, impairing
sensation and muscle strength in the affected portion of the
body. Most common among people in their 50s and 60s, spinal stenosis
affects the lumbar (lower back) portion of the spine more than
the cervical (neck) region. Symptoms include pain, numbness,
and weakness in the lower back and legs. Aching in the buttocks,
thighs, or calves during activity is a common feature of low
back spinal stenosis.
What Causes It?
involve arthritic degeneration and abnormal overgrowth of bone
tissue, such as osteoarthritis or Pagets disease may cause
There is no
way to prevent spinal stenosis.
and physical examination. Reflexes in the legs are tested to
assess nerve involvement.
with injected dyes (myelography).
tomography) scans or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Back pain with
loss of or changes in bowel or bladder function.
How To Treat It
and toning the abdominal muscles with exercise may reduce pressure
on the spine. Check with your doctor before beginning any weight-loss
program or new exercise regimen.
support (a corset available at some pharmacies and medical-supply
stores) may discourage motion that causes pain and help ease
walking and exercise. It should not be worn all day, however.
drugs may relieve pain.
If pain prevents
normal activities despite self-care and medication, surgery to
relieve pressure on the nerves (decompression surgery) may be
warranted. The surgeon opens the spinal column where narrowing
has occurred and removes the constricting bone or fibrous tissue.
The opening through which nerve roots pass may be widened; if
an excessive amount of bone is removed, the affected vertebrae
may be fused together to increase spinal stability. Physical
therapy may aid rehabilitation.
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