Stenos, in Greek means “narrow”. Spinal stenosis refers to a condition which causes the spinal canal to narrow and the spinal cord and/or nerves to be crushed and cause pain and other symptoms. It is a very common condition affecting about 10% of people and most commonly after the age of 50. When the neck is affected, symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in a hands, arms, feet or legs
- Weakness in a hands, arms, feet or legs
- Problems with walking (ataxia) and balance
- Neck pain
- In advanced cases, bowel or bladder dysfunction (urinary urgency and incontinence)
When the lower back is affected, symptoms may include:
- Numbness, tingling, pins and needles feelings extending from the buttocks, leg or a foot
- Weakness in a leg or a foot
- Pain or cramping in one or both legs when you stand for long periods of time or when you walk, which usually eases when you bend forward or sit
- Back pain and leg pain made worse with walking
Normal Spine Images
Normal MRI of the neck showing the seven vertebrae and the intervertebral discs in between.Normal sized spinal canal is marked by 2 red lines and inside is the white spinal fluid and the dark grey spinal cord.
Cross section MRI slice of a normal cervical spine. The spinal canal is delineated with a red cline and shows the spinal fluid surrounding the spinal cord without compression of the cord.
Normal MRI of the lower back shows the lumbar vertebra and the normal intervertebral discs. The spinal canal is marked with red lines and the nerves are floating free in the spinal fluid.
Cross section MRI of a lumbar vertebra showing a wide spinal canal (red circle) with the nerves surrounded by spinal fluid..
Spinal Stenosis Images
MRI of 67 yo male with 2 level spinal stenosis causing pain, weakness, numbness and imbalance.
Cross section MRI showing severe cord compression at C4-5 level.
71 yo female with severe low back spinal stenosis caused by multiple disc protrusions (red outlines) and thickened ligamentum flavum (yellow outline).
Severely narrowed spinal canal (red circle) and compressed nerves.
The stenosis is seen by herniated discs between C3-4-5 (red outlines) and enlarged ligamentum flavum (yellow line). Spinal cord damage is seen as whitish area inside the cord (blue arrow).
Cross section shows herniated disc (red line), thickened ligament (yellow lines) and compressed spinal cord (blue line).
Severe multi level cervical stenosis. The outline of the compressed spinal cord is seen in blue.
The intervertebral discs are made up of a strong outer layer and a soft inner layer and act as cushions between the vertebra and allow for spine motion. As the discs degenerate (overuse or hereditary tendency) they can protrude/bulge or herniate. Herniated discs can then compress the nerves or spinal cord leading to symptoms which most commonly are pain in the distribution of the nerve, weakness and/or numbness.
A patient with 3 herniated discs in the neck. The discs are at the C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 levels and marked with red.