Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more areas in your spine, most often in your upper or lower back. This narrowing can put pressure on your spinal cord or on the nerves that branch out from the compressed areas.
- Spinal narrowing doesn’t always cause problems. But if the narrowed areas compress the spinal cord or spinal nerves, you’re likely to develop signs and symptoms. These often start gradually and grow worse over time. The most common spinal stenosis symptoms include:
- Pain or cramping in your legs, arms, hands or feet.
- Numbness, weakness or tingling in your leg, arms or feet. For some people, the radiating pain is a minor annoyance, but for others, it can be debilitating.
- Pain in your neck and shoulders. This is likely to occur when the nerves in your neck (cervical spine) are compressed.
- Loss of balance. Pressure on the cervical spinal cord can affect the nerves that control your balance, resulting in clumsiness or a tendency to fall.
- Loss of bowel or bladder function (cauda equina syndrome). In severe cases, nerves to your bladder or bowel may be affected, leading to partial or complete urinary or fecal incontinence. If you experience either of these problems, seek medical care right away.