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Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

By Marie Louise ; Updated July 27, 2017

Spinal stenosis can be caused by aging or inheriting a degenerative condition. It commonly occurs in men and women over the age of 50. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal and mainly occurs in the upper or lower part of the spine. In some cases, there are no spinal stenosis symptoms.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

Cauda equina syndrome is a severe, and rare, form of spinal stenosis. It occurs due to compression of the cauda equina nerve. Spinal stenosis symptoms may include loss of control of the bowel, bladder, pain, weakness, or loss of feeling in one or both legs. This is a serious condition, and a physician should be consulted as soon as possible for treatment.


Nerve pressure from spinal stenosis can cause numbness in the legs if the lower back is affected. If the upper back is affected, numbness may also be present in the arms and hands.

Back and Hip Pain

If a herniated disc is causing the spinal stenosis symptoms, there may be pain that radiates from the hip into the lower back and down the leg or affect both legs. Pain may also start in the back and radiate through the buttocks and down one or both legs. This could be due to compression of the sciatica nerve.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Spinal stenosis symptoms may occur if the nerves in the upper part of the spine are being compressed. Pain may be constant or come and go. The pain may radiate into the arm or hand on either side, and headaches may also occur.

Loss of Balance

Spinal stenosis can put excessive pressure on the spinal cord. The symptoms produced due to this may lead to a loss of balance, which can lead to frequent falling and or difficulty walking. This spinal stenosis symptom may lead some people to believe they have become clumsy. See a doctor if this symptom is present.

Other Symptoms

In the legs or arms there may be a feeling of tingling or a pins and needles sensation. Some people may experience charley horses or painful leg cramps. Some may experience a feeling of water running down the leg when spinal stenosis is present. Sitting down or flexing the lower back can relieve some spinal stenosis symptoms because it opens up the space between the vertebrae relieving the pressure on the spinal cord.

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