Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal located inside the vertebrae of the lower back, known as the lumbar vertebrae. As this canal becomes narrower, it can put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves around it, causing lower back pain and leg pain, as well as numbness, tingling, and weakness in the legs.
While most people aren’t severely disabled, lumbar spinal stenosis can cause pain, numbness or weakness, most often in the legs, feet, and buttocks.
Southwest Scoliosis Institute’s orthopedic surgeons, Richard Hostin, MD, Shyam Kishan, MD, and Kathryn Wiesman, MD, all board-certified, fellowship-trained surgeons with years of experience treating patients with complex spine conditions – including lumbar spinal stenosis.
Lumbar spinal stenosis primarily affects older adults (50 and older) and is usually the result of normal age-related causes like wear and tear, arthritis, or a combination of both. Other conditions that can lead to lumbar spinal stenosis include:
Lumbar spinal stenosis can occur with and without symptoms, but when symptoms do occur, they tend to worsen over time. The most common symptoms include:
Often, the pain and other symptoms associated with lumbar spinal stenosis decrease when sitting or leaning forward, and it will usually get worse when standing up straight and walking.
In severe cases, a lumbar spinal stenosis can lead to a loss of bladder or bowel control. While this is rare, it can be an indication of a serious condition known as cauda equina syndrome that requires immediate medical attention.
Your physician at Southwest Scoliosis Institute will look carefully at your medical history before performing a thorough physical examination, during which they will specifically look for any signs of limited mobility and/or pain in the lumbar spine. The physician will also look for any difficulty balancing, as well as any reductions in muscle reflexes, loss of sensation, or muscle weakness that may be the result of the spinal cord being compressed by the disc.
If the physician suspects you have lumbar spinal stenosis, they will confirm this through a combination of X-ray imaging, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). X-rays can show whether there in an issue with the bones of the spine, such as bone spurs, loss of bone height, or spondylolisthesis, but CT and MRI scans are usually necessary to determine if there is a problem with the soft tissue of the spinal cord and surrounding nerves.
Southwest Scoliosis Institute uses an advanced digital low dose radiation X-ray imaging system that can take high-quality images of patients in just seconds. This system can also capture X-rays of patients while in a standing or seated position, and it’s conveniently located inside our Dallas location, meaning you and your physician can review the X-rays immediately after they are taken.
Not all patients with lumbar spinal stenosis will require surgery, and often their condition can improve with the help of nonsurgical treatments. In addition to managing pain and inflammation with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), your physician at Southwest Scoliosis Institute may recommend physical therapy and/or exercises specifically designed to strengthen the muscles in the back and stabilize the spine. The physician may also discuss using epidural steroid injections to decrease swelling in and around any affected nerves.
If nonsurgical treatment does not relieve your symptoms or they worsen, the physician may recommend surgery. There are several surgical procedures that can be used to treat cervical spinal stenosis, all of which are designed primarily to relieve any pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
The most common surgical treatments for lumbar spinal stenosis are:
Many of these surgeries are performed using minimally invasive techniques. To do this, the surgeon makes a tiny (3- to 15-millimeter) incision and uses specialized instruments with magnification to do the surgery. Surgeries performed with minimally invasive procedures are often done on an outpatient basis, meaning many patients are able to return home the same day as their surgery.
“Spinal stenosis is a condition we most typically see in patients over 50 years of age. Some treatments include exercise and physical therapy, lumbar traction, anti-inflammatory medications, and sometimes epidural steroid injections. If patients do not respond to conservative treatment modalitites, surgery can be helpful to open up the space available for the nerves.” – Dr. Richard Hostin
If you or a loved one suffers from spinal pain, you owe it to yourself to call Southwest Scoliosis Institute at 214-556-0565 to make an appointment.