The spine consists of three major areas: the cervical (neck), thoracic (torso/chest) and lumbar (lower back). Lumbar spinal stenosis is a common condition that causes the area around the spinal column to narrow or shrink, leading to pressure on the nerve roots and spinal column in the lower back. Spinal stenosis is a type of degenerative disorder that affects a majority of men and women over the age of 60 due to normal wear and tear on the bones and soft tissue of the spinal column and joints.
Causes and Risk Factors for Spinal Stenosis
The most common cause of spinal stenosis is arthritis and the normal wear and tear associated with aging. Although it is most common among adults over the age of 60, spinal stenosis can also result from congenital (birth) defects that cause a narrowing of the spine or from a traumatic injury.
Due to the compression and pressure on the nerves in the lower back, lumbar spinal stenosis can cause weakness, numbness and tingling in the legs as well as low back pain while walking or standing for longer periods of time. Additional symptoms may include:
- Sciatica (burning sensation/pain in the buttocks or legs)
- Numbness and tingling in the buttocks
- Foot drop
Sitting and/or leaning forward can temporarily alleviate the pain and pressure in the lower back for many people.
Other factors that can potentially obstruct the space around the spinal canal and lead to pressure include:
- Bone spurs or Paget’s Disease
- Herniated discs
- Hard or thickened ligaments
- Inflammation and swelling
Lower Back Pain Diagnosis and Treatment
Spinal stenosis is typically diagnosed through a comprehensive medical history and exam and imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI and CT scans. There are a number of non-surgical options designed to help relieve pressure and restore function and quality of life, including:
- Physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)
- Steroid injections
- Alternative therapies like acupuncture
Conservative, non-surgical treatments are usually the first course of treatment for general cases of spinal stenosis. In rare and extreme cases where it results in debilitating pain and mobility problems that drastically affect a patient’s quality of life, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgical intervention with a laminectomy (removal of excess bone) or spinal fusion.
For more information on spinal stenosis and back pain and injury treatment, contact the Gulf Coast Pain Institute by calling 850-484-4080 or 855-920-PAIN (7246) (toll free) to schedule a consultation in Pensacola today.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases