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Symptoms of lumber spinal stenosis include:
- Feeling of “pins and needles” in the skin where the spinal nerves travel. Reflexes become slowed. Some patients report Charley horses in their leg muscles. Others report strange sensations, like water trickling down their legs.
- Pain and weakness in the legs, usually in both legs. Some people think their legs are going to give out on them.
Patients may be so disabled and weak that they need to use a wheelchair. In rare instances, severe spinal stenosis can cause paraplegia or bowel and bladder incontinence. This condition is called cauda equina syndrome when it occurs in the lumbar spine region, and it is a surgical emergency.
Symptoms change with the position of the low back. Bending forward widens the spinal canal and usually eases symptoms. People with stenosis tend to get relief when they sit or curl up to sleep. Activities such as reaching up, standing and walking require the spine to straighten or bend back slightly. This position makes the spinal canal smaller in the lower back and often worsens symptoms.