Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

This painful condition is caused by age-related osteoarthritis that leads to spinal column compression. The aching from lumbar spinal stenosis is often associated with sciatica.

What You Need To Know About Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Syndrome?

As you age, the bones of your spinal column may change shape and shrink. While the bones may alter their size, the nerves they house do not change. Since the nerves have less space, they are more likely to be compressed due to pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. The resulting nerve compression can cause numbness, pain, and even weakness in the legs.

Alternatively, some people develop spinal stenosis as a childhood condition known as congenital spinal stenosis. While it can happen in any part of the body, spinal stenosis is most likely to occur in the lumbar area — also known as the lower back — of your spine.

Although there is no cure for spinal stenosis, there are many treatment options available to alleviate its symptoms.

A Resurgens physician will be able to talk to you about your treatment options. Book an appointment with a Resurgens Spine Center physician to learn more.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Each vertebra has a large opening at the rear called the spinal canal. In the cervical and thoracic regions of the spine, the spinal cord travels through this space. In the lumbar region of the spine, this opening contains a bundle of nerve roots. Openings called foramina branch away from the spinal canal. These spaces provide pathways for the nerve roots that travel from the spine to other parts of the body.

But for a person with lumbar spinal stenosis, one or more of these openings are narrowed. The spinal nerves can become compressed against the vertebral bone. This can interfere with nerve function. It can cause pain in the spine or in other parts of the body.

Lumbar stenosis is commonly caused by an excess growth of bone around the spinal nerves. This excess bone growth often results from osteoarthritis. Stenosis can also result from a dislocation or a fracture of the vertebral bone. Stenosis can be caused by soft tissue intruding into the spine's open spaces. Herniated discs, tumors, and thickened spinal ligaments can press against the spinal nerves. And in some cases, a person is born with a small spinal canal that does not provide enough room for the spinal nerves.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary depending on the location and severity of the problem.

Lumbar spinal stenosis can make walking distances difficult. The pain from stenosis can occur centrally or in the foramen areas of the body. Lumbar stenosis can cause pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs. It can also cause problems with control of the bladder and bowels.

Other common symptoms associated with lumbar spinal stenosis include:

  • Pain in the back

  • Intense burning sensation in the legs or buttocks also known as sciatica

  • Weakness in the legs that can make walking difficult

People with stenosis may feel their symptoms lessen when they shift their posture to accommodate their back pain. This is because leaning forward creates space in the narrowed spine and lessons the nerve pressure.

How is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

Your physician will be able to assess your condition with a physical exam and the use of diagnostic screening tools.

During your physical exam, the physician will ask you about your family history and learn about you and your symptoms. They will assess your condition by applying pressure to some areas in your back. Your doctor may also ask you to bend back backward, foreword, and left to right to diagnose the extent of your pain. Be prepared to experience some mild discomfort during this part of the exam.

If the physical examination doesn't yield conclusive results, your physician will use diagnostic technology to help pinpoint the extent of your condition. Spinal diagnostic tests like X-rays and MRIs will help your physician understand the location and severity of your condition.

Early diagnosis with a physician can help prevent irreversible harm to your nerves. The sooner you are diagnosed, the easier it is to resume an active lifestyle.

Treatment for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Treatment options for spinal stenosis may include anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants and medications to relieve pain. Steroid injections may be beneficial. A physician may also recommend physical therapy.

If these methods are not effective, surgery may be needed to eliminate pressure on the nerves. Your physician will not recommend surgery unless other procedures have not helped your condition.

There are many non-surgical options to help people with lumbar spinal stenosis.

Your doctor may recommend alleviating your pain with over the counter medications like Advil, Tylenol, and Aleve. In rare instances, your doctor may write you a prescription for more potent painkillers. Regardless of what medication they recommend, please be careful because they are habit-forming.

Physical therapy can help you manage your symptoms with rehabilitative stretches, lumbar/abdominal strengthening, and massages. These simple steps can help alleviate your pain.

Some people will benefit from steroid injections. Steroid injections will help reduce the numbness and restore your well being.

Resurgens offers two surgical options for lumbar spinal stenosis. Both laminectomy and spinal fusion can alleviate your pain and are effective treatments.

Your doctor will be able to give you more information about treatment options for lumbar spinal stenosis.

The physicians at the Resurgens Spine Center pride themselves on helping people get moving again. Schedule an appointment now.

Learn more about the Spine Center at Resurgens Orthopaedics.