Lumbar Spinal Stenosis - Symptoms
Many people older than age 50 have some
narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis) but do not have
symptoms. If the nerve roots or spinal cord become squeezed, symptoms may
weakness, cramping, or pain in the legs, feet, or
buttocks. These symptoms get worse when you stretch or extend your back, such
as when you walk (especially downhill), stand straight, or lean backwards. The
pain gets better when you flex your spine forward, such as when you sit down,
lean over a grocery cart, or walk uphill.
- Stiffness in legs and
- Low back pain.
- In severe cases, loss of bladder
and bowel control.
nerve roots that pass through the lower (lumbar) spine
extend to the legs. So spinal stenosis most commonly affects the legs. The
classic symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis is leg pain that is present when you
walk or stand and that is relieved by sitting. Leg pain is often present when
the spine is extended, as while standing straight or leaning backwards. And leg pain is
often relieved when the spine is flexed, as in a sitting position or when walking
uphill or leaning over a grocery cart. Some people find bicycling more
comfortable than standing or walking. People with severe lumbar spinal stenosis
may have a habit of leaning forward in a stooped position to relieve
See a picture of
nerves commonly affected by spinal stenosis .
In some cases, the
severity of symptoms may not relate to the degree of the narrowing of the
spinal canal as seen on imaging tests. You may have very severe symptoms, but
tests show relatively little narrowing of the spinal canal. Or you may have
mild symptoms, but tests show a significant narrowing of the spinal canal.
So treatment is based not only on imaging test results, but also on how
bad your symptoms are and how they impact your normal daily activities and
quality of life.
other conditions have symptoms similar to spinal stenosis.