My mother and father lived into their 90s with very few health problems. I'm only 66 but already I'm having back pain that's been diagnosed as spinal stenosis. Since no one else in the family has this problem, how come I do?
Spinal stenosis (SS) is a common problem today in older adults. Older adult is defined today as anyone over 65 years old. Stenosis is described as the compression of nerve tissue (nerves, spinal cord). It's caused by a narrowing of the space where the neural tissue is located.

Normally, the spinal cord and spinal nerves only take up about one-third of the space around them. But as we age, this space starts to narrow. Bone spurs, thickening of the ligaments, and disc collapse all contribute to this problem.

Stenosis may be accompanied by another problem: scoliosis. This is a curvature of the spine that develops as the supporting structures of the spine degenerate. The vertebrae start to slide sideways and rotate. This can further complicate the picture.

Although stenosis can be congenital, most of the time it is acquired. This means it develops as a result of the age-related changes mentioned. Whether or not stenosis is becoming more of a problem in today's older adults compared to previous generations is unknown. Studies to determine causes and risk factors are underway.