Lumbar canal stenosis refers to the gradual narrowing of the space that protects the spinal nerves in the lower back – eventually leading to painful nerve compression. In older patients, decompression surgery is occasionally required to undo the years of spine deterioration that have led to their lower back pain, although there are a variety of conservative, non-invasive treatments available that may also alleviate the pain from stenosis.
Lumbar Spine Anatomy
In a normal person, the spinal cord travels from the base of the brain to the first or second vertebrae of the lumbar spine segment in the lower back before it “horsetails” into a series of spinal nerves. Since the spinal cord ends early, lower back injury rarely will result in paralysis. Instead, the compression of a nerve in the lumbar spine segment, such as a herniated disc or a bone spur, more often leads to pain that travels into the leg along the sciatic nerve – commonly referred to as sciatica.
In most cases, treatment of lumbar canal stenosis will first be attempted with a series of conservative, non-invasive techniques, such as:
- Strengthening exercises – this may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to alleviate back pain is with targeted exercise. While you want to be careful not to overdo it, building up strength in your back can reduce swelling and help prevent re-injury.
- Stretching techniques – like strengthening exercises, proper stretching or yoga classes are a great way to increase the flexibility in your spine and prevent further damage.
- Hot or cold therapy – introducing a heating element to your stenosis increases blood flow and expedites the healing process. If your stenosis is caused by swollen back muscles, ice packs can be a great treatment option.
- Limited rest – while becoming sedentary can be one of the worst things you can do, taking a day or two to allow your back to heal can make all the difference.
- Improve your posture and diet – something as simple as shedding a couple of pounds or walking with a straight back can remove a significant burden off the spine and help speed the recovery process.
Regardless of your condition, keep in mind that no diet or exercise regimen should ever be attempted without the input and supervision of a physician or fitness professional.
For more information on lumbar canal stenosis and your various treatment options, including a minimally invasive endoscopic spine procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) today.