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What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 18 Apr 2012 | comments*Discuss
Lower Back Pain Spinal Stenosis Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a term given to a condition of the lumbar area of the spine that most commonly causes lower back pain. It is a condition that is caused by compression on the nerves that stem from this area due to the surrounding spinal canal becoming narrowed.It most commonly affects those over middle age due to the nature of the causing problems and associated conditions, though in a few of those affected, narrowing of the spinal canal may have developed as a growing foetus or a small child.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing can occur for a number of reasons.It might be that the bony structures of the vertebrae have developed small growths that are encroaching on the spinal canal.Perhaps the ligaments of the spinal column have thickened and are protruding into the lumbar spine or maybe the tissues have become arthritic and are pressing on the nerves of this region.

Signs And Symptoms.

Typical signs of lumbar spinal stenosis are weakness and numbness in the lower extremities, this may be worse on movement particularly bending, leaning backwards and standing still and straight for long periods.Pain is also common with the condition and may originate from the buttocks and radiate down the legs as far as the ankles. It may often start as lower back ache and progress to more debilitating pain as it worsens.In the worse cases some degree of loss of sensation of the bladder and bowels may present.Symptoms may come and go or get progressively worse over time.

Treating Lumbar Spine Stenosis.

Treatments for this condition are similar to those offered for most types of back pain.Pain relief and medications that aim to reduce inflammation and swelling of the tissues are recommended as often this is enough to cope with the associated discomfort.

Exercise can often help as it not only encourages the release of naturally occurring pain relief called endorphins but may also help to loosen nay stiffness in the muscles, ligaments and surrounding tissues.Your doctor may recommend the use of steroid injections that can be administered as an out-patient or as a day patient. These injections target the affected area and can offer relief for several weeks if successful.In a few number of cases surgery may be the only option that will offer permanent relief but as with any surgery there are risks involved.

Any operation that involves working so closely to the spinal cord has its hazards although experienced surgeons using the latest equipment and procedures will ensure that these are minimal.During surgery for these types of operation, the surrounding tissues and sometimes bone that are causing the compression are removed or reduced with the aim of relieving the pressure and allowing the individual the ability to resume normal activities with as little pain and numbness as possible.Other types of surgery may involve the surgeon permanently fusing the most severely affected vertebrae together which then inhibits flexibility and movement in the area but relieves the pressure on the nerves.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a fairly common condition that usually results as we age.It can cause back ache, pain, tingling and numbness to the buttocks and legs which often gets progressively worse over time.

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