Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in the spine, or backbone, where the spinal cord is located. It puts pressure on the spinal cord, which in turn causes pain and disruption to some body functions.
Because spinal stenosis is usually caused by the degeneration (the breaking down, or deterioration) of bones, disks, and ligaments during the aging process, it mostly affects people over the age of 50. In younger people, the condition is usually a result of a genetic disease that affects bone and muscle development, like scoliosis and Paget's disease. Some people may be born with the defect while others suffer a spinal injury that causes it. Tumors can also lead to spinal stenosis.
Some people don't feel the effects of spinal stenosis, but most will experience symptoms like pain or cramping in the legs when walking or standing for long periods of time; numbness, weakness, or tingling in a leg, foot, arm, or hand; and bladder or bowel functioning problems. Symptoms tend to worsen over time.
To treat spinal stenosis, a doctor might recommend a variety of medications, physical therapy, and steroid injections; for severe cases, surgery can increase space in the spinal area and relieve pressure. At-home treatments like over-the-counter pain medications, hot or cold packs, and using a cane or walker also might help.
With proper treatment and some changes in lifestyle, many people with spinal stenosis can remain active for many years.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) The AAOS provides information for the public on sports safety, and bone, joint, muscle, ligament and tendon injuries or conditions.|
|National Institutes of Health (NIH) NIH is an Agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and offers health information and scientific resources.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Scoliosis Research Society The Scoliosis Research Society's site provides patients and their parents with a better understanding of scoliosis and its diagnosis and management.|
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|Scoliosis: Personal Stories (Video) In this video, two girls who were treated for scoliosis talk about their experiences.|
|Brain and Nervous System The brain controls everything we do, and is often likened to the central computer within a vast, complicated communication network, working at lightning speed.|
|Scoliosis: Teens Talk (Video) Two teens talk about what it's like to have scoliosis, and how treatment has helped them look and feel better.|
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|Brain and Nervous System If the brain is a central computer that controls all the functions of the body, then the nervous system is like a network that relays messages back and forth to different parts of the body. Find out how they work in this Body Basics article.|
|Scoliosis: Samantha's Story Between sixth and ninth grades, Samantha received treatment for scoliosis - sometimes at a hospital hundreds of miles away from her home. This is her story about treatment and recovery.|
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