Your spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs through a tunnel formed by your vertebrae. The tunnel is called the spinal canal. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower part of your back. Stenosis which means narrowing, can cause pressure on your spinal cord or the nerves that go from your spinal cord to your muscles.
Spinal stenosis can happen in any part of your spine but is most common in the lower back. This part of your spine is called your lumbar area. Five lumbar vertebrae connect your upper spine to your pelvis.
If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you may have trouble walking distances or find that you need to lean forward to relieve pressure on your lower back. You may also have pain or numbness in your legs. In more severe cases, you may have difficulty controlling your bowel and bladder. There is no cure for lumbar spinal stenosis, but you have many treatment choices.
The most common cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis, the gradual wear and tear that happens to your joints over time. Spinal stenosis is common because osteoarthritis begins to cause changes in most people’s spines by age 50. That's why most people who develop symptoms of spinal stenosis are 50 or older. Women have a higher risk of developing spinal stenosis than men.
Besides osteoarthritis, other conditions or circumstances can cause spinal stenosis:
- Narrow spinal canal
- Injury to the spine
- Spinal tumor
- Certain bone diseases
- Past surgery of the spine
- Rheumatoid arthritis