As we age, our spine, like most of our body, begins to suffer the effects of time and normal wear and tear. The lumbar spine is the lower region of the spine, made up of five vertebral bodies within the lower back. The nerves along the spinal cord pass through the spinal canal and exit through small openings in the sides of the vertebrae known as the foramina.
These nerves are responsible for sending sensations from the buttocks and lower legs to the brain, in addition to providing motor signals to produce movement of the legs and other lower extremities. As our spine degenerates over time, these issues can cause a condition known as lumbar spinal stenosis.
What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal and the vertebral foramina, become narrowed. As these areas become more and more narrow, this causes compression of the spinal cord and its surrounding nerves – causing severe pain in the lower back, legs and the rest of the lower body.
In many cases this narrowing is caused by movement of the discs or vertebrae in the spine.
Causes of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is often a result of aging, and age-relateddeterioration of the spine. In some rare instances however, some individuals are born with narrowed spinal canals. The main causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Arthritis in the Spine
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Herniated or bulging discs
- An Accident, Injury, or Trauma
- Complication of Prior Surgery
- Spinal Tumors
- Certain Bones Disorders or Infections
As a result of this narrowing in the lumbar spine, the lower body and lower extremities are affected.
- Muscle spasms in the lower back
- Sciatica – Pain radiating in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and lower extremities; especially when walking, known as claudication.
- Lumbar Radiculopathy – Pain, burning, numbness and tingling in the lower back.
- Muscle weakness
The majority of spinal stenosis patients do not require surgical measures for treatment.
Non-Surgical Options include:
- Physical Therapy/Exercise – Inactivity can be a major issue with stenosis, and some targeted exercise plans can help patients to recover from their injuries. Also making changes to the way you walk or make certain movements can often help.
- Medication – Includes anti-inflammatory medication, epidural injections, and pain relievers (OTC & prescriptions).
- Epidural Injections
When the pain symptoms are more severe, and there is significant muscle weakness surgery may be necessary.
- Lumbar Laminectomy – Used to help decompress the nerve pressure.
- Spinal Fusion – In some rare cases, stabilization surgery might be needed – Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF), Posterior Lumbar Fusion and Lateral Lumbar Fusion.
Depending on the specifics of your spinal stenosis, other surgical measures may be used as well. For more information about lumbar spinal stenosis, other spinal issues or to schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Arutyunyan today.