Document Type



Medicine and Health Sciences


Tandem spinal stenosis is a clinical phenomenon which may cause a functional loss related to neurologic compression in numerous areas of the spinal cord. In this phenomenon, the second area of symptomatic neurologic insult is not revealed until the primary symptomatic area has been treated. This case describes a 71-year-old male referred to physical therapy 4 weeks following a combined anterior/posterior C3/4 decompression and fusion for treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy. Approximately 8 weeks post-operatively (4 weeks after initiation of physical therapy), the patient began to complain of bilateral lower extremity weakness, primarily with climbing stairs. At 12 weeks post-operatively, the patient developed bowel incontinence and saddle paresthesia. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed multiple levels of critical stenosis of the lower thoracic and upper lumbar spine, which resulted in referral for surgical intervention. Following surgical decompression there was complete recovery of lower extremity strength, saddle area sensation and bowel function. This case highlights the need for the clinician to remain vigilant for concomitant pathology despite successful surgical intervention. A thorough knowledge of the presentation of various spinal disorders, as well as a thorough neurologic examination, is required to accurately recognize both candid and subtle red flags requiring immediate referral for surgical intervention.


Originally published in :

J Man Manip Ther. 2012 February; 20(1): 50–56. doi: 10.1179/2042618611Y.0000000010

PMID: 23372394 [PubMed]

PMCID: PMC3267447