Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Stenosis means narrowing of a structure and cervical spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing or tightening of the spinal canal in the lumbar or lower back region. Spinal canal is the bony tube in which the spinal cord and the nerve roots travel. The narrowing of this canal results in pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves causing various symptoms like pain, stiffness and incontinence.


Causes of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Like rest of the bones of our body, spine also undergoes degenerative changes due to age. It is a normal wear and tear effect of aging that can lead to stenosis. In such cases, spinal stenosis usually occurs after the age of 50. But some patients may develop stenosis in lumbar region early in their life due to any of the following reasons:

lumbar stenosis

  • Genetically a person may have smaller sized tube in the spine (spinal canal)

  • Congenital spinal canal abnormalities

  • Arthritic changes such as

    • Bone spurs

    • Thickened ligaments

    • Joint laxity

    • Bulging of disc

  • Disc herniation

  • Disc fractures

  • Trauma

  • Tumor


Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

In some cases, patient does not complain of any symptoms but still the X-ray or MRI of their lumbar region shows stenosis. These patients may remain asymptomatic till the time stenosis causes increased pressure on the nerves. Pressure on nerves or damage to spinal cord results in the following symptoms:

  • Pain in lower back

  • Radiating pain in the buttocks and legs

  • Pain is usually felt on standing or walking

  • Pain is often relieved by sitting, lying or leaning forward

  • Cramping in legs after prolonged standing or walking

  • Burning sensation in the back, buttock or legs

  • Numbness or tingling in the lower back that radiates to buttocks and legs

  • Weakness in the lower extremities

  • Decreased ability to walk

Diagnosis of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

The diagnosis of lumbar stenosis starts with complete history taking along with thorough physical and neurological examination. But this is generally not conclusive and physician performs following diagnostic tests to get appropriate and confirmed diagnosis:

  • X-Ray

  • MRI scan

  • CT scan with myelogram