Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when injury or age leads to a narrowing of the space within the spinal column of vertebrae in your lower back. The result can be pain and difficulty walking.
Discs are doughnut-shaped, spongy cushions that fit between each vertebra to absorb shock and tie the vertebrae together to ease bending and twisting.
There are five discs in the lumbar area of the spine — running from below your last rib to the pelvis. They are made of cartilage that holds a jellylike substance. If that jellylike substance oozes out of the disc, called herniation, it can cause stenosis, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Other causes of lumbar spinal stenosis include bone spurs on the vertebrae or overgrown ligaments in the spinal column.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
- Back pain
- Burning pain from the buttocks into the legs
- Sciatica — an electric-shock like pain down the leg.
- Pain, numbness or tingling in the legs that worsens with walking and improves with sitting down or bending forward.
- Foot drop (weakness in the foot that causes it to slap down while walking)
- Bladder, bowel or sexual dysfunction
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treatment
Many nonsurgical treatments can eliminate lumbar spinal stenosis pain. Options include:
- Cold/heat therapy
- Therapy to help you better understand and manage your pain
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy
- Mental health therapy to help you cope with your condition
- Injections to reduce swelling around a nerve
Surgery is considered for patients who have not gotten relief or whose symptoms have worsened. Surgical options include:
- Surgical removal of the cause of your stenosis — whether a herniated disc, overgrown ligament or bone spurs — can ease pressure on the nerves and help relieve pain. Minimally invasive surgery is often an option for this procedure.
- Surgical fusion to stabilize the spine, which can be performed as a minimally invasive procedure, also can reduce pain and restore function.