What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing pain. Although young people who are born with a narrow spinal canal or who suffer traumatic injury to their spine can get spinal stenosis, it is most common in men and women over 50 years of age.

The narrowing of the spine can occur in one or more of three areas:

  • Center of the spine
  • Canals where nerves branch out from the spine
  • Space between the vertebrae

Cauda equina syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome (CES) is a rare, very serious form of spinal stenosis that affects a bundle of nerve roots, called cauda equina, at the lumbar end of the spinal cord. These nerves send and receive messages to and from your legs, feet and pelvic organs. In CES, the nerves become compressed and paralyzed, affecting sensation and movement. This syndrome can be caused by heredity, physical trauma, infection, tumor, ruptured disk or spinal fracture.

CES is a surgical emergency. Failure to receive quick treatment to relieve this pressure can result in:

  • Permanent paralysis
  • Urinary and/or fecal incontinence
  • Loss of sexual sensation
  • Weakness
  • Pain or loss of feeling in one or both legs