Sounds pretty bad, no? But then I guess all medical names sound awful. To judge by this picture (NOT my picture, friends! I culled it from the Internet and I hope it's a lot worse than mine!) it looks pretty awful, too. The cause? Who'd have guessed it? Aging. Here's a medical decription.
"Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. That’s the long vertical space, encased by your vertebrae, that protects the spinal cord (see picture).
"The size of your spinal canal is genetically determined, but it can be narrowed by the effects of gravity such as arthritis, spinal misalignment, disc herniations, etc.... That’s why spinal stenosis is more common as we age. A small canal limits the room for the nerves and spinal cord causing low back and leg pain, especially when standing and walking. Sitting and curling up in a ball temporarily enlarge the canal and relieve the pain."
I include all this--the description and the picture--in part in the interest of clarity, but mostly to scare myself with the facts, and to remind myself of the importance of my meditation practice, particularly now that age has begun to take its toll on the physical body. I hope and believe that it will help me watch the inevitable deterioration with some equanimity, and that I may learn to observe and experience all those inevitable aches and pains without becoming attached to them and turning them needlessly into suffering. In other words, to age with as much grace and acceptance as possible.
Which does NOT mean, of course, capitulating to the ravages of time without reasonable care and resistance. In reading up on spinal stenosis, I believe that the best way to address it is with exercise: I plan to increase the relatively little time I have devoted to my yoga stretches, and try to generally exercise more.
Ah, and then there's the unmentionable... uh, diet. The plain truth of the matter is that I'm fifteen pounds heavier than I should be. That's fifteen pounds that my back has to carry around and hold up straight. Fifteen pounds of extra stress. No joke, really. I keep intending to do something about it, but the good intentions don't get translated into the necessary action. I know that it's something I can address with mindfulness, but this remains one (more!) place in my life where the need to match intention with action is all too evident.
Note to self: meditate on what it is about me that needs to console itself with an overconsumption of food... Ouch! Time to "curl up in a ball... to relieve the pain"?!