Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Lower Back Pain Treatment

So, how is low back pain treated? Well, as described above, the treatment very much depends on the precise cause of the low back pain. Moreover, each patient must be individually evaluated and managed in the context of the underlying background health status and activity level.

Quick GuideSciatica Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Sciatica Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Lumbar spinal stenosis facts

  • Lumbar spinal stenosis is a lower back condition whereby either the spinal canal (central stenosis) or one or more of the vertebral foramina (foraminal stenosis) becomes narrowed.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis is typically caused by degenerative arthritis.
  • Patients can develop low back pain as well as pain, weakness, and numbness or decreased sensation in the legs.
  • Surgery is recommended when other nonsurgical treatments have failed and for patients with increasing weakness of the legs or loss of bowel or bladder function.
  • Surgery includes a lumbar decompression with or without a lumbar fusion.
  • Surgery is most reliable for the relief of leg symptoms and less reliable for the relief of back pain.

What is the lumbar spine, and what is lumbar spinal stenosis?

The lumbar spine is made up of five vertebral bodies in the lower back. Nerves coming off the spinal cord travel though the spinal canal and exit the canal through small openings on the sides of the vertebrae called foramina (singular = foramen). These nerves transmit sensations from the buttocks and lower extremities through the spinal cord to the brain and transmit motor signals from the brain to the lower extremities to produce movement of the legs, toes, and joints of the lower extremities.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition whereby either the spinal canal (central stenosis) or one or more of the vertebral foramina (foraminal stenosis) becomes narrowed. If the narrowing is substantial, it causes compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves, which causes the painful symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis, including low back pain, buttock pain, and leg pain and numbness that is made worse with walking and relieved by resting.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015

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