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What is Spinal Stenosis?

The spine, a row of 26 bones in your back, allows you to stand up straight and bend over. The spine also protects your spinal cord from being hurt. In people with spinal stenosis, the spine is narrowed in one or more of three parts:
1. The space at the center of the spine
2. The canals where nerves branch out from the spine
3. The space between vertebrae (the bones of the spine).

Pressure on the lower part of the spinal cord or on nerve roots branching out from that area may give rise to pain or numbness in the legs. Pressure on the upper part of the spinal cord (that is, 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 old. However, it may occur in younger people who are born with a narrowing of the spinal canal or who suffer an injury to the spine.

Changes that occur in the spine as people get older are the most common cause of spinal stenosis. As people get older:
The bands of tissue that support the spine may get thick and hard.

Bones and joints may get bigger.

Surfaces of the bones may bulge out (these are called bone spurs).

In some cases arthritis, a degenerative condition can cause spinal stenosis. Two forms of arthritis may affect the spine: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Some people are born with conditions that cause spinal stenosis. For instance, some people are born with a small spinal canal, while others are born with a curved spine (scoliosis). Other factors that have been know to cause spinal stenosis include: tumors of the spine, injuries, Paget’s disease (a disease that affects the bones), too much fluoride in the body, and calcium deposits on the ligaments that run along the spine.