Lumbar stenosis is another term for spinal stenosis of the lower back. Spinal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition that describes the narrowing of the spinal canal. Like all degenerative spine conditions, lumbar stenosis develops over time due to the natural aging and wear and tear of the spine. Patients with lumbar stenosis may begin to feel symptoms in the lower back of stiffness or mild pain when bending.
To understand this condition and the best treatment options for 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 vertebrae 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 experiencing 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
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your physician. Many cases of lumbar stenosis can be treated with conservative therapies, such as physical therapy and yoga. However, some more severe cases of lumbar stenosis may require surgical treatment. Your physician will help you determine the best treatment route for your needs.
Treatment options available for lumbar spinal stenosis
While many forms of spinal stenosis can be effectively treated with conservative therapies, some more severe cases of lumbar stenosis may require surgical treatment to find pain relief. Before deciding what type of treatment is the best option for you, your physician or surgical consultant will review your MRI report or CT scan to determine the cause of your lumbar stenosis. If you have bone spurs or a herniated or bulging disc that is causing your spinal stenosis, the surgeon may have to remove a portion or all of the diseased disc or vertebrae to fully relieve your pain and symptoms.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive decompression surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery to help treat lumbar stenosis. The minimally invasive nature of our surgery allows our procedures to be performed in an outpatient setting at one of our seven world-class surgery centers across the country.
Both surgeries begin with a small incision of about an inch in length. Through this small incision, the surgeon will access the spine without disrupting the surrounding muscles and soft tissues. Once the spine is accessed, the surgeon will either remove the entire diseased disc or vertebrae or just a small portion of it, depending on the severity of the condition. This will release the impacted nerve root in the spinal canal and help reduce pain. If the entire disc or vertebrae is removed, the surgeon will have to insert an implant into the empty space to stabilize the spine. This is called a minimally invasive stabilization surgery.
Laser Spine Institute offers two minimally invasive procedures — foraminotomy and laminotomy that have been tremendously successful in treating the pain and discomfort caused by lumbar stenosis. For more information on how our team at Laser Spine Institute might be able to ease your chronic back pain and symptoms, please contact our Care Team today.