Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing causes pinching or compression of the spinal cord or nerves within the spinal canal, which can in turn lead to pain in the back, buttocks, thighs, and legs, as well as an overall decrease in physical activity. There are two basic types of spinal stenosis: Lumbar spinal stenosis is the result of narrowing of the spinal canal on the lower part of the spinal column, whereas cervical spinal stenosis affects the upper part of the spine. In most cases, spinal stenosis is the result of a degeneration of the spine, which occurs with aging.
Lumbar spinal stenosis usually causes pain, numbness, tingling, and/or burning in one or both legs (buttocks, thighs, calves) and in many cases a feeling of fatigue in the legs. The symptoms are typically worse when standing or walking and relieved by sitting down or leaning forward (for example, leaning forward on a grocery cart while shopping). Higher up the spinal column, cervical spinal stenosis can create painful sensations in the shoulders, arms, and hands. A feeling of clumsiness and a lack of balance may also accompany this condition if the spinal cord is being compressed.