Which physical exam findings are characteristic of mechanical back pain caused by stenosis?

Updated: Aug 27, 2020
  • Author: Debra G Perina, MD; Chief Editor: Trevor John Mills, MD, MPH  more...
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Answer

Spinal stenosis may be present when evidence of degenerative joint disease is present on radiographic studies. Patients with this disease process often complain of progressive pain down the lateral aspect of the leg during ambulation (pseudoclaudication). This pain results from neurologic compression rather than actual arterial insufficiency, which produces true claudication. In cases of spinal stenosis, the straight leg test result is often negative.

The stoop test helps distinguish true claudication from pseudoclaudication. Patients with true claudication sit down to rest when pain occurs, while patients with pseudoclaudication attempt to keep walking by stooping or flexing the spine to relieve the stretch on the sciatic nerve.


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