Category Archives: Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis

As a specialty health care retailer, we take our job seriously when it comes to providing solutions to customers seeking relief and prevention of back and neck pain. One pain culprit we commonly hear about is spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal. It’s most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to aging. For those with spinal stenosis under the age of 50, genetics diseases affecting bone and muscle development play a role. Spinal Stenosis can be difficult to diagnose (an MRI or x-ray may be required), as people who develop it usually have no history of back problems or recent injury. Often, unusual leg symptoms are the best clues as stenosis may pinch the nerves that control muscle power and leg sensation. These include back, neck, and leg pain, including numbness in the posterior, thighs or calves, and difficulty maintaining balance while walking.Treatment options for spinal stenosis pain relief include:

  • Physical Therapy – Exercises for stenosis pain relief are designed to increased flexion strength. Follow these simple stretches as demonstrated by Madden Physical Therapy.
  • Postural changes – Leaning forward while walking helps flex the spine and relieve some of the symptoms.
  • Cold/heat therapy – Applying heat and ice with our Moji Back Pain Relief System can relieve some of the flare-ups.
  • Medications: In the case that pressure on nerves is caused by inflammation, take over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Surgery: If other treatments do not ease the pain and the pain becomes worse, surgery may be the next option to recreate space in the spinal canal. Talk with your doctor about how much relief surgery can provide.

Explore one of our more than 100 stores for additional information and a personal assessment by one of our trained associates.



Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis develops when either the spinal canal or spinal nerve pathways narrow.  The term stenosis means to abnormal narrowing.  The spinal canal is a vertical hole that contains the spinal cord.  The shape and structure of the spine’s bones help to protect the spinal cord.  In the low back (lumbar spine), the spinal cord becomes the cauda equina; a bunch of nerves resembling a horse’s tail.  Discs between each vertebral body serve to create natural passageways called foramen through which spinal nerve roots exit the spine.

Cervical spinal stenosis is a common cause of neck pain especially in people over age 50 or those with a history of neck injury or trauma.  Some people are born (congenital) with stenosis.  There are three types of cervical spinal stenosis:

  • Cervical central stenosis means part of the spinal canal is narrow
  • Cervical foraminal stenosis means one or more of the spinal nerve root pathways is narrowed
  • Both cervical central stenosis and foraminal stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis

is a common cause of low back pain in people over age 50.  Wear and tear and common conditions including osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and development of bone spurs (osteophytes) contribute to stenosis.

Typical symptoms

Cervical Spine Stenosis Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Neck pain; mild to severe Low back pain; mild to severe
Numbness, weakness (shoulders, arms, or legs) Numbness, weakness (buttocks, legs)
Hand clumsiness; coordination difficulties Difficulty and pain when walking, standing, bending backward
Burning, tingling sensations in the arms or legs Pain relieved by resting or leaning forward
Difficulty walking Burning, tingling sensations in legs
Bladder or bowel dysfunction (rare) Bladder or bowel dysfunction (rare)
Paralysis (rare) Paralysis (rare)

Talk with your doctor

Sudden pain or pain that is severe, or that becomes chronic or progressive, requires evaluation by your doctor.  Perhaps your doctor has already diagnosed you with cervical or lumbar spinal stenosis.  If that is the case, he will want to know about any new symptoms, especially weakness, problems with balance or when walking, or bladder or bowel dysfunction.


Your doctor collects and compares information gathered while talking with you about your medical history and past and existing symptoms.  A physical and neurological examination looks for limitations of movement, balance difficulties, and what exacerbates and relieves pain.  During the exam he tests your reflexes, muscle strength, sensations, or other signs of neurologic loss.  Your doctor may order imaging studies such as plain x-ray, CT, or MRI to study and confirm you diagnosis to direct your treatment plan.


Most cases of cervical and lumbar spinal stenosis do not require surgery.  Often, one or more non-surgical treatments are very effective at relieving symptoms.  These include:

  • Medications: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation and pain; muscle relaxants to calm spasm; and, occasionally narcotic painkillers.
  • Cold/heat therapy
  • Spinal injections
  • Physical therapy: stretching to increase flexibility, therapeutic exercise to build muscle strength and endurance; posture and importance of maintaining good posture (ergonomics) at rest, work, and during other activities.
  • Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture

Surgery may be recommended if pain cannot be managed, spinal instability develops, or neurologic symptoms develop or progress.  Your doctor will explain why he recommends surgery and the type of procedure involved, including what to expect before and after surgery.