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Lumbar Stenosis vs Cervical Stenosis: What are the Differences?


You may have experienced lower back or neck pain at some point, and these two conditions could be the cause. Lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis are both medical concerns that can affect your spine, but they have distinct differences.

If you’re wondering about the differences between lumbar and cervical stenosis, continue reading. This article will explain the differences between the two conditions in every fundamental aspect.

Lumbar Stenosis: What is it?

Lumbar stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows in the lower back region, causing compression of the nerves. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs and lower back.

Understanding lumbar stenosis is crucial in determining if this condition is the cause of your lower back pain. Knowing the symptoms and the treatment options available can help improve your quality of life, making it easy to manage your pain. And if your condition gets worse, it may lead you to surgery by specialists like the ones from


Cervical Stenosis: What is it?

Meanwhile, cervical stenosis happens when the spinal canal narrows in the neck region. It also causes compression of the nerves, just like with lumbar stenosis. Because of the difference in location, cervical stenosis instead affects the arms, hands, and neck.

As you may already surmise, the main difference between lumbar and cervical stenosis is the location where the spinal canal narrows. This relatively simple difference can cause different symptoms and may lead to other treatment options.

Causes of Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

The most common causes of lumbar stenosis are degenerative changes in the spine due to aging or wear and tear. On the other hand, cervical stenosis is often caused by spinal cord injury or degenerative changes in the spine. It’s crucial to get these conditions diagnosed, as leaving them can worsen their effects.

Other causes may include spinal tumors, bone diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and spinal surgery.

Symptoms of Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

Lumbar and cervical stenosis symptoms are similar, but they affect different parts of the body. Both can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in specific body parts. Lumbar stenosis affects the lower back and legs while cervical stenosis affects the neck, arms, and hands.

Other symptoms of lumbar stenosis may include an urgent need to pee and incontinence. Meanwhile, other symptoms of cervical stenosis may include incapability to perform sex and loss of sensation in a person’s lower limbs.

Diagnosis of Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

Typically, diagnosing lumbar and cervical stenosis involves a physical exam, imaging tests, and nerve conduction studies. Doctors may also conduct a medical history interview to determine the condition’s cause.

Treatment Options for Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

The treatment options for lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis include medication, physical therapy, and surgery. Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers can help manage pain and inflammation while physical therapy can improve mobility and reduce pain.

Remember that as the patient’s condition worsens, other treatments may be needed to alleviate the damage caused by the two spinal problems.

Complications of Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

Complications of lumbar and cervical stenosis can include bladder or bowel dysfunction, severe weakness, and paralysis. These complications are often treated as symptoms of extreme cases. And at that point, surgery may be necessary to prevent these complications from worsening.

Prevention of Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

Preventive measures can help reduce the risk of lumbar and cervical stenosis. Some of them are the following:

  • Practice good posture: Sitting and standing up straight can significantly help. Also, keep your shoulders relaxed when sitting and avoid slouching or hunching over your desk, computer, or phone.
  • Exercise regularly: Engage in activities that help strengthen your back muscles and improve your flexibility such as yoga, Pilates, or swimming.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can strain your spine and exacerbate stenosis symptoms. Because of that, diet and regular exercise are your friends as they can help maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid activities that strain your spine: Heavy lifting, repetitive bending, and twisting can all put undue pressure on your spine and lead to stenosis.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can decrease blood flow to your spine and limit your body’s ability to heal, making it more challenging to manage stenosis symptoms.
  • Manage underlying conditions: Conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes can contribute to stenosis.

It’s worth noting that while preventive measures like exercise and yoga can help reduce the risk of developing stenosis, they may not be entirely effective in all cases.

Prognosis of Lumbar and Cervical Stenosis

The prognosis for lumbar and cervical stenosis depends on the condition’s severity and the individual’s overall health. Mild cases may resolve independently or with conservative treatment such as physical therapy, rest, and pain management.

Thankfully, with proper treatment, the future of lumbar and cervical stenosis sufferers is positive. Most people can manage their symptoms and maintain their quality of life with the help of medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.


However, note that having any of the two at severe levels may require surgical intervention, as mentioned in the previous sections a while ago. Also, if the condition is left untreated, it may progress and cause more severe symptoms such as nerve damage and paralysis.

Because of these, individuals with lumbar and cervical stenosis must work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a treatment plan that addresses their needs and goals. By following the recommended treatment plan, individuals can often achieve significant relief from their symptoms and maintain their quality of life.


Lumbar and cervical stenosis are distinct conditions that affect the spine and have various symptoms and causes. By understanding the differences between the two conditions, you can work with your healthcare provider to develop an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.

If you’re experiencing lumbar or cervical stenosis symptoms, seeking medical attention to receive an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan is crucial. With proper care and treatment, lumbar or cervical stenosis patients can manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Consider the ideas mentioned here as you plan and prepare.

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