Lumbar spinal stenosis is one of the conditions that can cause lower back pain. It is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which is the hole in the vertebrae of the spine that the spinal cord runs through. If the canal is narrowed enough, there is pressure placed on the lower spinal cord and the nerve roots that come off of it, resulting in some nerve compression symptoms. Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis besides low back pain include sciatica, or nerve pain, numbness and tingling that radiates from the lower back to the buttocks and down the leg, and muscle weakness in the legs.
Some degree of lumbar spinal stenosis is common in older individuals (60+), because normal age-related degeneration of the lower back can cause the spinal canal to narrow. Individuals with arthritis of the lower back (lumbar spondylosis) are more likely to develop lumbar spinal stenosis as well. The majority of older people have narrowing of the spinal canal and other degenerative changes to the lumbar spine, but only a fraction of these individuals will have pain and other symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention for lumbar spinal stenosis.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is diagnosed with a clinical examination of the patient’s back and medical imaging techniques to visualize the spine. The condition is treated with nonsurgical or conservative options first. These treatments do not actually have an effect on the degree that the spinal canal is narrowed, but they can improve pain and symptoms through other means. Physical therapy exercises can strengthen the back muscles and have a positive effect on pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can relieve pain and reduce inflammation that may contribute to compression of the nerves. Inflammation can also be controlled with corticosteroid injections into the spine, if other treatments do not seem to be working.
Surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is usually considered with patients who have severe pain and difficulty walking due to their nerve compression symptoms. The most common surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is called a laminectomy or a decompression, and it involves removing a piece of vertebral bone to relieve pressure on the compressed nerves. If the spine of the patient is unstable, a vertebral fusion surgery may be recommended as well. Most patients with disabling nerve compression symptoms see improvement after a decompression surgery.
We treat Spinal Stenosis non-surgically at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics, P.C. Call 770-421-1420 or visit our website for more information.