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Spinal stenosis

  • Alternative Names

    Pseudo-claudication; Central spinal stenosis; Foraminal spinal stenosis


    When your back pain does not go away completely, or it gets more painful at times, learning to take care of your back at home and prevent repeat episodes of your back pain can help you avoid surgery. Your doctor and other health professionals will help you manage your pain and keep you as active as possible.

    Generally, conservative management is encouraged. This involves the use of medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes. Steroid injections may relieve pain for a period of time.

    Various other medications may help with chronic pain, including phenytoin, carbamazepine, or tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline.

    For more information about treatment, see: Low back pain - chronic

    If the pain is persistent and does not respond to these measures, surgery is considered to relieve the pressure on the nerves or spinal cord. Surgery is performed on the neck or lower back, depending on the site of the nerve compression.

    See also:

    • Foraminotomy
    • Laminectomy
    • Spinal fusion

    Expectations (prognosis)

    Many people with spinal stenosis are able to carry on active lifestyles for many years with the condition. Some change in activities or work may be needed.

    Spine surgery will often provide full or partial relief of symptoms. However, future spine problems are still possible after spine surgery. The area of the spinal column above and below a spinal fusion are more likely to be stressed when the spine moves. Also, if you needed more than one kind of back surgery (such as laminectomy and spinal fusion), you may be more likely to have future problems.


    Injury can occur to the legs or feet due to lack of sensation. Infections may get worse because you may not feel the pain related to them. Changes caused by nerve compression may be permanent, even if the pressure is relieved.

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of spinal stenosis.

    More serious symptoms that require immediate attention include:

    • Difficulty or imbalance when walking
    • Problems controlling urine or bowel movements
    • Problems urinating or having a bowel movement