There is more than one cause of spinal stenosis--a condition in which the spinal column puts pressure on the spinal cord, attenuating the flow of nerve signals to the body. Typically of stenosis in the neck, I found that, slowly over the course of a year or more, I lost strength, dexterity and range of motion in my left arm, hand, shoulder and leg.
A number of factors can contribute to the onset and exacerbation of stenosis. My right leg is a half inch shorter than my left, which has given me mild scoliosis which, in turn, contributed to the spinal squeeze. More important, however, is the fact that I have always carried a great deal of tension in my neck and shoulders. "All muscles pull on the bones they are attached to," wrote Paul Grilley in Yin Yoga: A Quiet Practice, "and the bones respond by growing thicker and stronger. This is why a forensic scientist can examine a skeleton and determine the strength of the deceased. The bones will have thickened and strengthened where powerful muscles have pulled on them." Apparently, my neck muscles pulled on my vertebrae until they became arthritic, causing them to constrict the spinal cord. Long before the symptoms appeared, I had already included neck and shoulder stretches as part of my yoga practice, but by then it was too late. Now, I am unable to do any intense neck stretches without risk of damage to the expensive hardware with which four of my vertebrae are fused.
If, like me, you find yourself walking around with your shoulders in your ears and your neck stiff as a cable, I urge you to begin now to loosen up those muscles before it is too late, and you end up needing spinal surgery. (The pre-surgical consent forms I had to sign warned that the procedure could result in blindness, paraplegia or death--but the discomfort and debility were more than enough of an ordeal even without those grim outcomes.) Click in the link below to download a free ebook from Yoga Journal called "Yoga for the Neck and Shoulders." And good luck!