Spinal stenosis is a narrowing in the space of your vertebrae that carries your spinal cord and the nerves to your arms and legs. This space is normally very small, and many different diseases and conditions can make the canal get even smaller. Arthritis, falls, accidents, and wear and tear on the bones and joints in the spine play a part in stenosis. As the spinal canal shrinks, the nerves that go through it are squeezed. This squeezing may cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness or clumsiness in your neck, back, arms, or legs. Many adults have this kind of stenosis.
Symptoms may affect your gait and balance, dexterity, grip strength and bowel or bladder function. It can cause pain, weakness, or sensory changes in either your arms or legs. It may be difficult to use your arms and hands or to know where you are placing your feet as you walk. You may notice handwriting changes, walk differently and have difficulty maintaining your balance. You may drop items, have trouble fastening your jewelry or texting and typing. You should get medical attention immediately if you experience these symptoms.
Depending on how bad your symptoms are, you can choose several different treatment options. If your pain is tolerable, you can try an exercise program or physical therapy to strengthen your back muscles and improve your posture. You can also try medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. If your symptoms are severe – you can’t stand up straight or you can’t walk any significant distance – then you may need to see a spine surgeon.