Lumbar stenosis (abnormal decrease in size of the spinal canal) is one of the most common conditions occurring in the spine. It has many causes, but is most often caused by degenerative arthritis of the spine joints which causes enlargement of the joints and ligaments in the spine canal. This in turn puts abnormal pressure on the nerve roots in the spinal canal, resulting in back and leg pain, often in both legs.
Lumbar stenosis symptoms usually include back pain, pain in one or both legs, numbness and tingling in the legs or feet, or weakness of the leg muscles. Characteristically, these symptoms occur when standing or walking for a prolonged period of time, a condition called neurogenic claudication. In advanced stages, difficulty walking can occur, as well as problems with bowel and bladder control. Because the stenosis is caused by a type of arthiritis, there may be abnormal movement in the spine, causing back pain which is usually aggravated by certain movements, and is more intense than the associated leg pain. If this is the case, a physician may order specific X-rays to check the stability of the spine.
Despite this however, most patients with lumbar stenosis will not need surgery. Symptoms can often be managed with a combination of physical therapy and medications. Steroid injections next to the spine may also be an option, as well as nerve blocks and facet blocks, depending on the location and type of pain experienced. We work with an extensive network of health care providers to provide the most appropriate plan of care based on the patients needs.
If surgery is ultimately necessary, the surgery most commonly performed to decompress the spinal canal is called a lumbar laminectomy. Other surgeries performed for lumbar stenosis are similar with only minor variations, the primary goal being to remove the enlarged ligaments and parts of the abnormal joints until the nerve roots in the spinal canal are no longer compressed. If abnormal movement of the spine is suspected, a laminectomy and fusion with instrumentation may be performed. For more information on the surgeries for lumbar stenosis, click on the appropriate link above.
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