by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. This can put pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Some people are born with a small spinal canal. It can also happen with aging. Other things that may cause it are:
It is most common in people over 60 years of age. Things that may raise the risk are:
Spinal stenosis causes pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord. It is most common in the low back (lumbar) region.
Spinal stenosis may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may be taken of your spinal canal. This can be done with:
The electrical activity of your nerves, nerve roots, and muscle tissue may be measured. This can be done with electromyography.
There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms. Options may be:
Some people with severe symptoms may need surgery to take pressure off of the nerves or spinal cord. Options are:
There are no guidelines to prevent spinal stenosis.
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
The Arthritis Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Delitto A, Piva SR, et al. Surgery versus nonsurgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis: A randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(7):465-473.
Kreiner DS, Shaffer WO, et al; North American Spine Society. Evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (update). Spine J. 2013 Jul;13(7):734-743.
Lumbar spinal stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-spinal-stenosis. Updated January 24, 2019. Accessed September 30, 2019.
Spinal stenosis. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at:
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Updated August 2016. Accessed September 30, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated: 9/8/2020
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