One of the more common spinal injuries, spinal stenosis is caused by, or rather it occurs when, the small spinal canal (the area of the spine which contains all the nerve roots and the spinal cord) becomes narrow and compressed. In a sense spinal stenosis is the back's equivalent to carpal tunnel syndrome, as both occur as a result of the nerves travelling through it being pinched due to compression.
Spinal stenosis rarely occurs naturally in people under 50 years old, but when it does it is often due to the sustaining of a spinal injury which causes the spinal canal to become narrowed (possibly due to swelling). When it occurs naturally due to age, it is usually the result of one of three possible causes: continuing growth of the bone or joints, the development of bone spurs (bulges on the bone's surface), or possibly the thickening and hardening of the bands of tissue that offer support to the spine.
Other possible factors that can lead to or result in spinal stenosis include the onset of Arthritis (usually Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis), genetic or inherited conditions where by an individual is born with an already narrow spine, Scoliosis (a curvature of the spine) and having an abundance of fluoride in the body. It is also possible for spinal stenosis to occur as a result of a tumorous growth developing on the spine.
The symptoms of spinal stenosis are sadly not immediately apparent or unique, and can often be confused with other things until they become serious enough to warrant an actual hospital visit. Symptoms of spinal stenosis include neck or back pain, numbness, lethargy, fatigue, cramping, arm and leg pain, and also problems with the feet.
Needless to say if these problems persist you should visit a doctor, but depending on the type of spinal stenosis that you're suffering from (that is to say depending on what nerves that are being affected) the symptoms can be much more severe. For instance, one type of spinal stenosis can cause loss of bladder or bowel control, loss of sensation in one or both legs, weakness, and problems performing intimately. However there is a good chance that if you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms you would (we hope) have visited a hospital shortly after they first became apparent.
There are a number of ways to test for spinal stenosis and fortunately there are also a number of ways to treat it. Depending on the cause and the severity it is possible that you could be prescribed a back-brace, or some anti-inflammatory or pain relief medication. Of course if the symptoms are severe, are not alleviated by medication or physical therapy, or the spinal stenosis is in itself a symptom of a larger problem, surgery may be considered as an option.