What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Stenosis comes from a Greek word that means “narrowing.” Lumbar Spinal Stenosis refers to a condition when the spinal canal and/or neuroforaminal become narrow and compress the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. Compression of the cord/nerves causes inflammation and pain.

If you feel pain in your lower back which makes it difficult to walk any distance or find that you need to lean forward to relieve pressure on your lower back, particularly if this is accompanied by pain or numbness in your legs, calves, or buttocks, then you may want to visit your doctor, as these are symptoms which can lead to Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

What causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is usually a result of degenerative disease or injury in the spine. The most common cause is osteoarthritis (i.e., spondylosis), a condition in which cartilage that cushions joints starts to degenerate. Osteoarthritis mostly affects people who are typically age 50 or older. Some patients are genetically disposed to development of spinal stenosis as they may have someone who has osteoarthritis in their family. In addition to that, women have a higher risk of developing spinal stenosis than men, according to the National Center of Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

To diagnose Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, your doctor may do a full physical exam, as well as asking you about your symptoms and the pain you feel. The doctor may also order imaging tests such as X-Rays, CT and/or MRI scans, or other studies such as a bone scan, myelogram, or Electromyofgraphy (EMG). For patients with a history of and physical examination findings consistent with degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis, MRI is recommended as the most appropriate noninvasive test to confirm the presence of anatomic narrowing of the spinal canal or nerve root impingement. Furthermore, artificial intelligence can be also used to manage the diagnosis, prognosis, and outcome prediction of spinal disease.

Current and Potential Future Treatments

Arthritis or nerve specialists, surgeons, and physical therapists are among those healthcare professionals that can help you if you have Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. A common approach to treating lower back pain is doing some physical therapy-type exercises to strengthen your back, stomach, and leg muscles. A doctor may also prescribe some medicines that could relieve pain and swelling. In extreme cases, steroid injections into the spine could be recommended; however, steroid injections don’t work for everyone. One risk of repeated steroid injections is that they can weaken nearby bones and connective tissue, so you can only get these injections a few times a year.

There are also some alternative treatments like massage therapy, acupuncture, cranial-sacral therapy, and chiropractic adjustments that could help you cope with the pain caused by the lumbar spinal stenosis.

Most patients with spinal stenosis respond well to nonsurgical treatments and do not require surgery. However, if other prescribed treatments have not helped or you are disabled by your symptoms, your doctor may give you a surgical recommendation. The surgery is performed to reduce the pressure on the neural structures by providing more room for the spinal cord, cauda equina, and/or nerve roots.

Currently, clinical trials are underway to test the use of stem cells to treat degenerative spinal disease, an approach that is sometimes called regenerative medicine. Genomic medicine trials are also being conducted, which could result in new gene therapies for lumbar spinal stenosis.

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