Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Spinal Stenosis

Although young people born with a narrow spinal canal or who suffer traumatic injury to their spines can get spinal stenosis, it is most common in men and women over 50 years of age. Aging and arthritis (both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) are the most common causes of spinal stenosis.

Three conditions occur with aging:

  • The bands of tissue supporting the spine may harden and thicken
  • Bones and joints may get bigger, reducing space
  • Individuals may get bone spurs (bulges on bone surface)

Other causes of spinal stenosis, which can occur at any age, include:

  • Physical trauma
  • Tumors of the spine
  • Paget’s disease
  • Excessive fluoride in the body
  • Calcium deposits on ligaments


Your physician will inquire about your medical history, conduct a physical examination and may order one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray: Uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs onto film
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body
  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan): Uses a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal or axial images (often called slices) of the body
  • Myelogram: Uses dye injected into the spinal canal to make the structure clearly visible on X-rays
  • Bone scan: A small amount of radioactive material collecting in the bones can indicate infection and other disorders