Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
The vertebrae are divided into four regions one of which is the lower back or lumbar region. Between the vertebrae are the intervertebral discs and spinal facet joints (see spinal anatomy).
Lumbar spinal canal stenosis is a narrowing in the space in the lower spine that carries nerves to your legs. This narrowing causes the nerves that go through the lumbar spine to be squeezed resulting in symptoms such as pain or numbness in the back and/or legs, or weakness of the legs. Bowel and bladder problems may also occur but this is rare.
Symptoms are intermittent and vary in severity. Prolonged standing or walking can make the symptoms worse. Often leg pain can be relieved by either bending forward or sitting which can take pressure off the nerves that go to the legs.
Several diagnostic studies are available which can provide information about the stenosis and nerve pressure including CT Scan, MRI of the lumbar spine, and/or lumbar myelogram.
There are many non-surgical options for treatment depending on how bad your symptoms are. Surgery is recommended for severe persistent pain not responding to an exercise regimen, physical therapy, epidural injections and pain medication, and when bowel and bladder problems develop.
The most common surgical procedure is called a laminectomy which is an opening made in the lamina to make room for the nerves in the spinal canal. Other types of surgery are available depending on associated conditions which can be discussed during your evaluation.