Your vertebrae form a canal-like structure that houses the bundle of nerves known as the spinal cord. If that canal becomes narrowed due to stenosis, it puts pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. This condition can cause a host of symptoms that may require pain management. Lumbar spinal stenosis refers specifically to stenosis in the lower part of the back, which is the area most commonly affected.
What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
Osteoarthritis—the loss of the protective cartilage that provides cushioning at the ends of our bones—is the most common cause of spinal stenosis. As people age, osteoarthritis wears away the cartilage that helps prevent bony vertebrae from pushing against the spinal canal. Because osteoarthritis is a natural part of aging, most people diagnosed with spinal stenosis are over 50-years old.
Osteoarthritis is not the only cause of spinal stenosis, however. Other causes can include:
- Certain bone diseases
- Spinal tumors
- Spinal injury
- History of spinal surgery
- Herniated discs
- Thickened ligaments in the spine
- Bone overgrowth
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Having any of the above conditions, being over the age of 50 puts someone at a higher risk for spinal stenosis. Women also have a greater risk of developing the condition than men.
Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Many people can have spinal stenosis without experiencing symptoms, especially in the early stages. Over time the following symptoms may occur:
- Pain in the lower back
- Numbness, burning pain, or tingling in the buttocks running down to the legs (sciatica)
- Weakness or cramping in leg muscles
- Foot drop
- Loss of feeling in the feet
- Loss of sexual ability
Severe symptoms known as cauda equine syndrome require emergency medical attention. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you are experiencing a loss of bladder or bowel control, severe numbness between your legs, or severe weakness or pain in one or both legs.
Treatments for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Fortunately, there are several effective treatments for spinal stenosis. While surgery is an option for advanced cases, lifestyle changes and pain management are usually enough to help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and practicing good body mechanics can help slow the process of Osteoarthritis. Mild symptoms can typically be relieved with simple home remedies such as rest, massage, and application of ice or heat in addition to over-the-counter analgesics. Your physician may also recommend specific nutritional supplements.
Treatment options for more severe symptoms include:
- Epidural nerve block
- Prescription medications
- Physical therapy
- Corticosteroid injections
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis, your health care provider will need to conduct the proper diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis, these include, MRI or CT imaging tests, X-rays, and other studies. The results from these tests are necessary before your doctor can create a treatment plan.
Call St. Louis Pain Consultants for Effective Pain Management
The pain caused by lumbar spinal stenosis can be debilitating for some people. Fortunately, diagnostic treatments are effective for managing the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. With the right help, you can get back to enjoying life and participating in the activities you love. Call St. Louis Pain Consultants to learn more about managing this condition.