What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spaces within the lumbar spine (lower back). It’s the most common form of spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis, in general, is usually caused by degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. Aside from these conditions, other possible causes of spinal stenosis include herniated disks, abnormal growths inside the spinal cord, thickened ligaments that bulge into the spinal canal, and spinal injuries.

Although anyone can have spinal stenosis, this condition is more common in people over the age of 50.

Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Not all people with lumbar spinal stenosis have symptoms. There are those who have evidence of the condition but are not experiencing any symptom. For those who have, the symptoms usually start gradually and worsen over time.

Some of the common symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include weakness in a foot or leg, back pain, numbness or tingling sensation in a foot or leg, and pain or cramping in one or both legs especially when standing for prolonged periods of time and when walking.

Diagnosing Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

A review of the patient’s medical history and a physical examination are needed to diagnose lumbar spinal stenosis. As part of the physical exam, the doctor will examine the back and push on different areas to assess the location and quality of pain. The doctor may also ask the patient to bend forward, backward, and side-to-side to look for limitations in movement.

Additional tests may be required to help in diagnosing the condition. These may include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans.

How It Is Treated

Treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis depends on the severity of the symptoms. If there is only mild pain, the doctor may require regular follow-up appointments to monitor the patient’s condition. Self-care tips may also be given to help in alleviating the pain.

If self-care tips don’t work, the doctor may recommend other ways of relieving pain and other associated symptoms. These may include pain relievers, physical therapy, steroid injections, or a decompression procedure.

Lumbar spinal stenosis can be debilitating. For those whose quality of life is greatly compromised with the condition, surgery may be recommended.

Laminectomy and spinal fusion are some of the surgical options for lumbar spinal stenosis.