Lumbar Stenosis

What is Lumbar Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal nerve roots are constricted or compressed from pressure. In most patients, the majority of symptoms are from problems that occur below L2, and for most patients, the spinal cord ends above that.

The spinal nerves (called the cauda equina in this region) carry all of the information from the brain to the legs and bladder/bowel region, and back to the brain. When there is stenosis here, this can result in a reduced flow of information back and forth, which typically becomes more symptomatic when walking (from loss of blood supply to the nerves, similar to angina in the heart).

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis can be the result of numerous causes. They include:
  • Osteoarthritis (or arthritis)
  • Injuries or instability in the neck
  • Herniated discs
  • Circumstances where someone is born with a small spinal canal
While there are many other causes of lumbar spinal stenosis, these are the most common.

What Are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause a variety of symptoms. Symptoms to be aware of are:
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Pain in the back or legs when walking
  • Impairment of bladder or bowel function with either incontinence or retention
  • Pain in the legs (a sharp, burning, or electrical pain that goes up or down the back or legs).

What is the Right Treatment for Me?

The treatment of symptomatic lumbar stenosis that has progressed despite conservative management (i.e., less than surgery) is usually dependent upon the severity of the stenosis, whether there is associated spinal deformity and the cause of the stenosis. It can include:
  • Anterior procedures (such as anterior or lateral fusions, done open or minimally invasively)
  • Posterior procedures in the back (such as laminectomy, with or without fusion, laminoplasty)
  • Minimally invasive treatments (when appropriate).