Spinal Canal Size and Clinical Symptoms Among Persons Diagnosed With Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

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Clinical symptoms associated with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) are believed to be due to neurogenic claudication caused by narrowing of the central and lateral spinal canals. However, there is a paucity of published data on these relationships. The purpose of the present study was to examine the relationship between clinical symptoms associated with LSS and osseous anterior-posterior (AP) spinal canal diameter as measured on axial magnetic resonance imaging.


Cross-sectional study conducted at a University Spine Program. Fifty persons with a clinical diagnosis of LSS were administered measures of clinical pain and perceived function. Walking distance in the laboratory and community was also assessed. Participants also underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the spine.


Using recommended upper limits from the literature, patients with smaller canals reported greater perceived disability, but no other group differences emerged. In the entire sample, AP spinal canal diameter was not significantly associated with any of the clinical symptom measures examined. Body mass index was found to be significantly related to walking distance, but not perceived function or pain.


AP spinal canal diameter is not predictive of clinical symptoms associated with LSS. The findings also suggest that body mass may play a significant role in functional limitations observed in this population.

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