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Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of an area of the spine, often involving the canals through which nerves run. A person with this condition may have symptoms such as pain or numbness in the legs or shoulders as a result of the pressure put on the spinal cord. Although the condition is most common in men and women over 50 years of age, spinal stenosis may occur in younger people who suffer a spinal injury or are born with a narrowing of the spinal canal.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of spaces in the spine that results in pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots.
Spinal stenosis usually involves the narrowing of one to three areas of the spine:
- The canal in the center of the column of bones (vertebral or spinal column) through which the spinal cord and nerve roots run
- The canals at the base or roots of nerves branching out from the spinal cord
- The openings between vertebrae (bones of the spine) through which nerves leave the spine and go to other parts of the body.
The narrowing may involve a small or large area of the spine.
Pressure on the lower part of the spinal cord or on nerve roots branching out from that area may cause spinal stenosis symptoms that can include pain or numbness in the legs. Pressure on the upper part of the spinal cord (the neck area) may produce similar symptoms in the shoulders or even the legs.
Spinal stenosis is most common in men and women over 50 years of age. However, spinal stenosis may occur in younger people who are born with a narrowing of the spinal canal or who suffer an injury to the spine.