Lumbar stenosis is another term for spinal stenosis of the lower back. To understand this condition, it helps to learn more about the basic anatomy of the spine and how the spinal column can change over time.
The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that extends from your brain to your lower back. This column of nerves is encased and protected by a column of 24 bones called vertebrae, and these vertebrae are cushioned by cartilage and other supporting tissue. As your body ages, the cartilage in between your vertebrae can deteriorate, leaving them exposed and rubbing against one another. When this occurs, your body compensates by growing extra bone, called bone spurs, which in turn can cause a narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing goes by a few terms such as spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, and neural foraminal stenosis.
The “lumbar” area of your spine refers to your lower back, so if you are told you have lumbar stenosis, it means you are suffering from a narrowing of your spinal canal in this region. If the narrowing presses upon the nerves of your lower spinal cord, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain that radiates from your back to your hips, buttocks, and the back of your leg (typically only affecting one leg)
- Weakness, tingling, or numbness in your leg
- Cramping in your legs when you stand or walk, which eases if you sit down or bend forward
- Loss of bladder or bowel function, which indicates a medical emergency that must be addressed immediately
In the vast majority of cases, lumbar stenosis is caused by degenerative changes in the spine, which are normal as people age. While some people experience mild symptoms that do not require medical treatment, more serious cases of lumbar stenosis can be treated with rest, physical therapy, supplements, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relievers, and injections. If your lumbar stenosis becomes severe, your doctor may recommend open-back surgical options such as decompressive laminectomy, laminotomy, or spinal fusion.
Laser Spine Institute offers two minimally invasive endoscopic procedures — foraminotomy and laminotomy – which have been tremendously successful in treating the pain and discomfort of lumbar stenosis. For more information on how Laser Spine Institute might be able to ease your painful back symptoms, please contact us for a complimentary MRI or CT scan review.