Spinal stenosis is a condition affecting the nerves in the lower portion of the back. The word stenosis is of Greek origin, meaning to choke. In essence, this explains what is happening to the nerves (the nerves are compressed). Lumbar spinal stenosis is most commonly associated with sciatica, characterized by numbness and / or tingling of the nerves from the lower back into the buttocks and legs.
Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Suffering from this condition can be quite painful, debilitating even. With more activity, the symptoms and pain can worsen, causing the patient to decrease physical activity. Some of the typical symptoms are:
Numbness in legs
Numbness in buttocks
Tingling feeling in legs
Tingling feeling in buttocks
Lower back pain
What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
In many cases, this condition is simply a reality of aging. As we get older, our joints may deteriorate, causing arthritis. This degeneration can cause weight transfer as the body adjusts itself to the deteriorating joints, putting more and more pressure on the facet joints and narrowing the openings where nerves pass. The result of which is direct pressure on the nerves, causing the symptoms mentioned above.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treatments
Surgery is an obvious option but can be invasive. Techniques are dramatically different from even a decade ago, but this surgery is still considered invasive and can require significant recovery time and physical therapy. The surgery consistants of an incision of up to five inches along the midline of the back. The doctor will then “approach the spine.” Once the doctor gains access to the facet joints, he or she will trim the joints to create more room for the nerves, alleviating the pressure.
For those not wishing to have surgery, there are non-surgical methods to deal with this problem. The first recommendation may be to modify your current activities to alleviate the pressure on these joints. For instance, walking with the assistance of a cane might help. There are also exercises and stretches that can be prescribed by a doctor or physical therapist (in most cases, this “therapy” will be prescribed prior to any surgery).
This condition may also be managed with medication. Doctors will often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and / or steroid injections. Again, these treatments may be required prior to any surgical procedure. In some cases, spinal manipulation with a chiropractor can help alleviate the pain. While not proven to be a long-term solution, acupuncture has offered some temporary relief to some patients.