How To Treat Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
September 24, 2018 by: Luis Manuel Tumialan MD
Lower back pain is an extremely common occurrence and will affect most of us during our lifetime. There can be many reasons why we experience lower back pain, but one of the more commonly diagnosed conditions is a problem known as lumbar spinal stenosis.
What is lumbar spinal stenosis?
Also referred to as LSS, lumbar spinal stenosis is a medical condition that is characterized by narrowing of the spinal canal, which causes the nerves in the lumbar spine to become compressed. This is the area between the ribs and pelvis, where five vertebrae protect the spinal column.
Lumbar spinal stenosis usually occurs slowly and as a result of the ageing process. As we get older, the discs between our vertebrae naturally lose water, causing them to become less spongy and much flatter. This causes our spine to become shorter and is one of the reasons we lose height as we age. Other age-related changes also contribute towards the narrowing of the spinal canal, including herniation of the discs into the free space in the spinal canal, and the development of bone spurs. These are outgrowths of bone that extend out into the spinal canal that most often occur around joints and where bones come together.
Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis
When there is compression of the nerves in the lumbar spine, a variety of different symptoms can occur. These include:
- Pain and/or weakness in the buttocks, things and calves
- Pain that radiates outwards into the hips and buttocks, similar to that experienced in sciatica
- Cramping in the calves when walking
- Requiring rest stops when walking or standing for long periods
- Pain that improves by bending forwards, sitting or lying down
- Loss of total function in the legs
- Loss of bowel/bladder function
Treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis
If you are suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis, you certainly are becoming frustrated with the effects that you are experiencing. While some patients can manage minor discomfort just using painkillers, others find that they require much more intensive support in order to alleviate their symptoms. Fortunately, there are a variety of different treatments that can help. These fall into two categories, non-surgical and surgical solutions.
Non-surgical treatments for LSS
Any good spine specialist will always recommend that you try non-surgical treatments before turning to anything more invasive. Most patients find that either one or a combination of the following therapies can help:
Spinal stenosis exercises. These will be provided to you by our doctor and will consist of movements designed to help stabilize and protect the spine, build endurance and increase your flexibility.
Epidural injections. These are used as a form of pain relief and can provide short-term relief from the discomfort that you feel.
Anti-inflammatory drugs. These work by reducing the inflammation and swelling in and around the spinal column, easing pressure on the nerves and reducing symptoms.
Surgical treatments for LSS
If non-surgical treatments are found to be unsuccessful, our doctor may recommend you for spinal surgery. There are several different surgical procedures that may be able to help combat lumbar spinal stenosis. However, the most common type of surgery recommended for LSS is known as a decompressive lumbar laminectomy.
A decompressive lumbar laminectomy involves removing the top part of each vertebrae, known as the laminae, so that there is a larger amount of space for the nerves. If our doctor finds that part of your lumbar is particularly unstable due to spinal stenosis, he may also recommend spinal fusion. As its name suggests, this involves a surgical procedure to fuse two weakened vertebrae together to create additional support and stability for your spine. This could help to reduce the pain you experience, as well as other symptoms.
If you would like more information about lumbar spinal stenosis, or if you are suffering from unspecified back pain and would like the advice and support of an experienced professional, our team would be delighted to help. Please don’t hesitate to contact our offices to schedule your confidential appointment.
If you are struggling with pain, weakness, loss of function, or other symptoms of spinal complications, contact Dr. Tumialán's office today.