A Complete Guide To Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Category: Blog

Are you suffering from lower back or neck pain? It is always better to get diagnosed as it can turn more agonizing and can lead to a degenerative disease called lumbar spinal stenosis. It can result in difficulty to carry out daily tasks.


Physicians clear out the queries related to lumbar stenosis by giving a proper explanation about spine structure.

They stated that lumbar spine is a combination of five vertebral areas in the lower back. Nerves travel through the small opening of the spinal cord on the sides of vertebrae, which are known as foramina.


The main task of these nerves is to transmit sensations from the buttocks and lower extremities to the spinal cord and on to the brain. These nerves play a pivotal role in sending signals that allow us to move our toes, joints, and legs.

When someone is suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis, it can be either his/her spinal canal or narrowed vertebral foramina. Another major factor that can lead to such a condition is aging.

The narrowing of the parts is a severe condition which results in the compression of the spine and that can be painful. Lower back pain is just one of the symptoms of spinal stenosis.

Causes

While aging is a significant reason, lumbar spinal stenosis isn’t just an age-related disease. Other factors lead to this condition, such as arthritis and tumors.

Take a look below to know about more factors that cause lumbar spinal stenosis:

  • Degenerative arthritis

Wear and tear of load-bearing joints occur due to pressure exerted on it that can impact the movement of the joints. Moreover, aging, athletic injuries, and obesity are other factors.

  • Degenerative disc disease

It can lead to loss of cartilage between the bones of joints and the formation of bone spurs.

  • Spondylosis

It is a degenerative disc disease that puts pressure on nerve tissue, causing lumbar spinal stenosis.

  • Tumors

A tumor is nothing but an abnormal growth of cells that serves no purpose. But the abnormal growth that spread to the spine can numb the nerves or narrow the foramina that can lead to spinal stenosis.

  • Infection

Transmission of spinal infections that can be either bacterial or fungal through the bloodstream can be a reason behind spinal stenosis. Although such conditions are rare, a spinal infection can impact the nerves in the spine.

  • Metabolic bone disorders

Such conditions that occur due to deficiency of certain minerals like calcium or phosphorus or vitamin D can cause abnormal bone growth, mass or structure which can be severe for the spine.

Symptoms

While each situation described above are unique, some lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms are classified as common. The severity of symptoms is often dependent on the degree of degeneration or pressure.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms:

  • Lower back pain

Intense, constant pain that gets worse at night which causes loss of bowel or bladder control.

  • Burning sensation

This type of pain occurs due to pressure on the spinal nerves. It often begins near the buttocks but then radiates down the leg that makes it hard to move.

  • Weakness

When the pressure reaches its peak point, some people experience “foot drop,” which makes the patient feel that their foot is slapping the ground while walking.

  • Numbness or tingling

Excess pressure on the nerve due to narrowed vertebrae can cause numbness, tingling, or even a burning sensation in the buttocks or the legs.

  • Loss of sensation

People who are suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis discovered that they feel less pain when they lean forward or are sitting.

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Research shows that leaning forward can increase the space for the nerves in the spine. Some patients have reported that during shopping activity, pain gets agonizing while standing and walking, but it is reduced when leaned on a shopping cart.

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Unfortunately, degeneration of the spine makes the symptoms worse as times passes. That’s why degenerative arthritis is also a progressive disease.

Diagnosis

A lumbar stenosis diagnosis requires a complete medical history and physical evaluation. The physician asks specific questions about symptoms, such as how long they have been suffering and what makes them feel worse, etc.

The doctor also tests the patient’s range of motion and feel for areas of tenderness in the spine. Legs, hips, and knees are also examined to assess reflexes, movement, strength, and sensation.

After a physical examination, doctors perform imaging tests like:

  • Spine X-ray

It shows loss of intervertebral disc height, bone spurs, and spinal instability.

  • MRI

Magnetic resonance imagining scans are an effective tool in diagnosing lumbar spinal stenosis. An MRI provides a view of nerves in the lower back and can detect the pinched nerves.

  • Computed Tomography

These scans provide a cross-section image of the spine. An injection in the spine that contains myelogram helps the examiner to get a clear image of the nerves. It makes it possible for the doctor to visualize the compressed nerves with ease.

  • Electromyograms (EMG)

It is a nerve conduction studies. In this evaluation doctors test for damage or irritation of the nerves. This test helps the doctor to precisely pinpoint the nerves that are causing the problem.

Treatment

In recent times, there are a plethora of options available for spinal stenosis treatment. After a full body evaluation, your doctor will be able to determine the best treatment for you.

Nonsurgical and surgical treatments can help relieve your pain and discomfort. Many times, surgery is a possibility, but nonsurgical treatment can be beneficial in restoring function and reducing pain.

Physical therapy can help people who are suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis. Stretching exercises, abdominal strengthening, and massage are well-known ways to help manage symptoms.

Here is a list of different treatment options, including surgical procedures:

  • Lumbar traction

It is the process of applying a stretching force to the lumbar vertebrae through body weight, weights, and pulleys to separate individual joints of the lumbar spine to decrease the numbness.

Although there is no scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, there are some people who seem to find traction helpful.

  • Anti-inflammatory medications

Such drugs and medication can provide some pain relief that occurs due to swelling around the nerve.

  • Steroid Injections

The injections around the nerve of the epidural space can help decrease swelling and pain. Some people also suggest that this treatment also reduces the numbness in the legs. Those who are going to this route must not take more than three injections a year.

  • Acupuncture

In this treatment, the needles are inserted at various pressure points on the body through the skin to treat the numb nerves.

  • Chiropractic manipulation

Spine manipulation by hand pressure is usually safe and can help in some cases of lumbar stenosis pain. It is advisable to go for a certified chiropractor for this treatment.

  • Ice

Ice is beneficial after the physical therapy for lumbar stenosis. The ice can numb the muscles of the back to bring temporary relief from pain. Do not use ice if there is a lack of sensation in the back area otherwise it can worsen the effect of lumbar stenosis.

  • Heat

This treatment can help loosen up tight muscles. Heat restores the blood flow and the healing process.

  • Surgery

When the pain gets severe, an operation is the only option. The two surgeries for spinal stenosis treatment are laminectomy and spinal fusion.

  1. A laminectomy eliminates the numbness of the nerves by removing bone, bone spurs, and ligament. This procedure is invasive and involves a large incision.

  2. While, in the case of spinal fusion, a surgeon fuses two or more vertebrae to help them heal into a single strong bone.

Exercises

Spinal stenosis treatment is incomplete without pain management exercises. Such activities provide both symptom relief and improve overall fitness and function.

Here are some exercises that can help you to cure spinal stenosis:

  • Unweighted treadmill

The treadmill activity relieves or lifts pressure off the spine as a person walks on it. Many patients get pain relief after a couple of sessions using the equipment.

  • Passive stretching

In this stretching exercise, another person helps the patient to stretch a muscle, using their hands or using a piece of equipment. For example: lie down on your back with one leg straight, and the other leg bent from the knee with the foot flat on the floor. Lift your straight leg with your hand, while trying to keep your knee straight.

  • Hip mobility

Strong hips support the spine, so this exercise is often recommended. In this exercise, the patient has to lie down on their right or left side with their legs together. Then you have to raise the top leg straight up and down about ten times before switching sides and doing it over again.

  • Thoracic extension

There are many alternatives of the thoracic extension exercise where the patient moves the trunk of their body backward. An example would be raising your hands and arms above your head as while the patient is lying down.

If your lower back pain is getting worse, then you must get it diagnosed. Otherwise, it can lead to lumbar spinal stenosis. Kennedy Health Pain Relief & Wellness Center is a health service provider who holds expertise in spinal stenosis treatments. Treat your long-lasting back pain without any surgery from our experts! Contact Kennedy Health Pain Relief & Wellness Center to know more about the procedure.

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