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.

Quick GuideSciatica Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Sciatica Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

What are risk factors for lumbar spinal stenosis?

The major risk factor for lumbar spinal stenosis is aging because it is associated with degeneration of the spine. Another less common risk factor is osteoporosis as it can lead to compression fracture of the lumbar vertebrae that results in lumbar spinal stenosis.

What are lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms?

Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause

In most situations, the symptoms improve when the patient is sitting or leaning forward. Typically, painful sensations shoot down the legs with continued walking and diminish with resting. These leg sensations sometimes mimic sciatica. This particular activity-related symptom is sometimes referred to as pseudoclaudication (or neurogenic claudication) because it mimics the true claudication of poor circulation from the narrowed blood vessels of peripheral vascular disease. Standing and bending backward can make the symptoms worse. This is because bending forward increases the space in the spinal canal and vertebral foramina, while bending backward decreases this space. It is therefore more comfortable for patients to sit or lean forward. Patients are frequently unable to walk for long distances and often state that their symptoms are improved when bending forward while walking with the support of a walker or shopping cart.

The symptoms commonly worsen with time. This is because degenerative arthritis is a progressive disease that gradually becomes more severe with time. If left untreated, the compression on the nerves from lumbar spinal stenosis can lead to increasing weakness and loss of function of the legs. It can also lead to loss of bowel and bladder control and loss of sexual function.

A doctor can help determine if one's symptoms are from lumbar spinal stenosis or a different condition. Many other disorders can cause similar symptoms that mimic lumbar spinal stenosis including

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Arthritis Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors