Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the space for the nerves
within each vertebra. When there is stenosis, there is not enough room for
the nerves, and the nerves are pinched. There may be pain, numbness and
Lumbar stenosis may result either from arthritic changes (including
arthritis caused by work) or a congenital narrowing. It is most common
after age 50. The commonest symptoms of pain are in the buttock, thigh,
and calf and are associated with walking and standing. The pain often
improves with sitting or bending forward. If you have this kind of pain,
called claudication, the arteries of the legs must be examined to make
sure they are functioning properly.
If you have arthritis, the normal vertebral cartilage is worn out and
bone spurs grow, causing a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis). If
symptoms are severe, a surgical procedure known as laminectomy may be
considered. It involves the removal of bone fragments, osteophytes, and
other arthritis tissue, which cause the narrowing. Basically the surgery
involves “shaving down” the arthritis. If this entails removing an
extensive amount of tissue, it may be necessary to stabilize the spinal
column by fusing two or more vertebra.
The important thing is to remember that pain is only a symptom. While
younger people are inclined to see a doctor for back pain, unfortunately
many seniors are willing to dismiss back pain, assuming it to be a natural
concomitant of aging. However, back pain should be correctly diagnosed so
that serious illness can be ruled out, and the underlying problem can be
addressed. Most often, substantial relief is possible.