The word “stenosis” means the abnormal narrowing of a body channel. With spinal stenosis, the narrowing happens in the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves. Older people (usually 50 and older) with weakened joints/ligaments in the back, cartilage loss and degeneration develop stenosis most often. (2) Some research shows that the prevalence of “degenerative” lumbar stenosis in older adults can be up to 13 percent of the population.
Some common disorders that can contribute to stenosis or occur at the same time include osteoarthritis/degenerative joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, spinal injuries or tumors, and genetic diseases that affect the bones of the back (such as Paget’s disease).
Stenosis can affect different parts of the spine. When the lower back develops stenosis, it’s called lumbar stenosis, while stenosis in the neck is called cervical stenosis. (5)
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Nerve roots in the lower back become compressed, which can cause similar symptoms to sciatica, affecting the buttocks and legs. Sometimes lumbar spinal stenosis cuts off blood flow to the lower body, which is called neurogenic claudication. About 75 percent of cases of spinal stenosis occur in the low back (lumbar spine).
Cervical Spinal Stenosis: Causes pain in the neck and other other nerve problems. When spinal cord compression in the neck becomes severe, it’s possible for serious problems to develop, including extreme weakness or even paralysis, which often requires emergency surgery.
Thoracic Stenosis: This is rare and affects the middle/upper portion of the spine. It’s far less common than the other two types because the rib cage keeps this area of the back more stable and limited in terms of movement.
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