If you are suffering from consistent lower back pain as well as pain in one or both of your legs, then you may have a condition called lumbar stenosis. This is a condition that can take place as you age, consisting of a narrowing of the spinal canal in your lower back, or lumbar spine. As this narrowing takes place, you will find that there is extra pressure put on your nerves as well as your spinal cord. These nerves also connect your lower back to your legs, which is why you may also be feeling leg pain, heaviness, or cramping.
What is the Spinal Canal?
The spinal canal located in your lumbar spine is the part of your spine most affected by lumbar stenosis. The lumbar spine consists of the five vertebrae spanning the length between your ribcage and pelvis, designated L1 through L5 from top to bottom. These vertebrae are separated by intervertebral discs, which act as cushions to diffuse pressure and keep vertebrae separated.
Each vertebra has vertebral arches, which are protruding arch-shaped bones that create space for the spinal cord. That space is the spinal canal, and when your spine is functioning correctly, the spinal canal should properly protect the spinal cord.
Causes of Lumbar Stenosis
Aging can cause your spinal canal to narrow due to repetitive stress over the course of several years. However, as the spinal canal becomes narrower, there are a number of conditions that can arise that irritate nerve roots by compressing the spinal cord. This will ultimately cause pain in your lower back, buttocks, and/or legs.
Lumbar stenosis can also be caused by spinal disc shrinkage, which will impede the ability of the disc to separate vertebrae. If the spinal cord ligaments have expanded, then this is also a primary cause of lumbar stenosis. Additionally, deterioration of vertebrae is a common cause of stenosis.
Symptoms of Lumbar Stenosis
If you are suffering from lumbar stenosis, you may be experiencing pain in the hips, buttocks, legs, and/or lower back. Here are some of the symptoms you may be experiencing.
- Lower back pain that continues through one or both buttocks, legs, and/or feet
- Radiating pain in the legs that worsens when walking
- Numbness or tingling in one or both legs or feet
- Weakness in one or both legs or feet
- Limited range of motion or difficulty walking
- Problems controlling bladder or bowel movements – a condition which requires immediate medical care
If you are experiencing stenosis in the upper back, or cervical stenosis, then you will have similar symptoms in the neck, shoulder area, arms, and/or hands.
Diagnosing Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
When you come in for your consultation at Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics, Dr. Rovner will conduct a thorough physical examination to determine the root cause of your problem. He will also extensively review your medical history, ordering any necessary tests such as x-rays or MRI scans. By examining your symptoms as well as test results, Dr. Rovner will be able to diagnose your condition and discuss treatment options with you, including the benefits and risks of each option. Finally, you will be able to decide together on the treatment option that is best for you.
Treating Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Dr. Rovner will usually recommend trying a number of different treatments before resorting to surgery. For example, if your diagnosis is spinal stenosis, then he will recommend modifying your activity levels, controlling pain with medication, altering the course of the condition with epidural steroid injections, and physiotherapy. If your condition is severe enough to require surgery, Dr. Rovner will recommend a lumbar laminectomy to treat the problem.