While it’s possible for spinal stenosis to occur without producing any symptoms, the disorder most commonly causes numbness, weakness, cramping, general pain in the arms or legs or sciatica. The area of the spine affected by spinal stenosis often is indicative of the symptoms experienced. For example, pressure on the lower portion of the spinal cord or nerve roots may result in pain or numbness in the legs, while pressure on the upper part of the spinal cord may result in pain or numbness in the shoulders and/or legs.

More severe stenosis may result in bowel and bladder dysfunction and foot disorders. A very rare, severe form of the disorder known as cauda equina syndrome occurs as a result of compression of the cauda equina – a sack of nerve roots at the end of the spinal cord that provide neurologic function to the lower part of the body – resulting in possible loss of control of the bowel, bladder or sexual function, as well as pain, weakness or loss of feeling in one or both legs. This condition requires urgent medical attention.

Resource: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

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