The spinal canal is the passageway where the spinal cord and nerve roots reside. Spinal stenosis results when the canal is narrowed. The narrowing may result from disc protrusions or herniations, thickening of the ligaments within the canal, movement of the vertebral bodies or osteophytes (bone spurs) growing into the canal.
The primary symptom of spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine is pain or other sensations in one or both legs. Stenosis can cause difficulty walking even relatively short distances, but this problem is relieved with a brief rest. In the cervical spine, pain or numbness radiates into the arms.
Non-surgical options include medication, physical therapy, aerobic conditioning and epidural injections. Indications for surgery include pain that fails to improve satisfactorily with non-surgical treatment. Surgical treatment generally consists of spinal decompression to enlarge the spinal canal and relieve the pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor in deciding which treatment, if any, may be best for you.