At Comprehensive Spine Institute, we are your partners for a healthier tomorrow. We treat common and uncommon orthopedic conditions that affect the spine, which in turn affect the way the entire body functions. Without good spinal health, your quality of life can be compromised, and that includes people who are affected with a condition called spinal stenosis (narrowing), which can occur at any point in the spine. Different spinal areas are responsible for separate functions, meaning lumbar (low back) spinal stenosis is different from cervical (neck) or thoracic (mid back) spinal stenosis.
What Is Lumbar Stenosis?
Lumbar stenosis is a type of spinal narrowing that occurs in the lower spine called the lumbar region, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine, or on your spinal cord which is a crucial part of your central nervous system that relays messages from the rest of the body to your brain. The most common cause of lumbar stenosis is age-related changes, and symptoms may vary but include leg pain and cramping while standing or walking for more extended periods. Usually, discomfort subsides somewhat while bending forward or sitting down, as this eases up the pressure on the spinal cord/nerve roots.
Management & Treatment of Lumbar Stenosis
Lumbar stenosis can be treated in a variety of ways. Although most patients do not need surgery and the condition resolves on its own with observation and nonsurgical therapies, it can sometimes require surgical correction. First, your doctor will recommend nonsurgical treatments such as medication, physical therapy, and steroidal injections into the lumbar spine to ease inflammation and reduce pain.
Some of the treatments you may have for lumbar stenosis include:
- OTC medication: Your doctor may prescribe pain medications like over-the-counter pills to ease discomfort. These are typically only recommended for a short time, as they lose effectiveness, and there’s little research-backed evidence that there is a long-term benefit.
- Antidepressants: Nightly dosesof antidepressants may be necessary to ease chronic pain symptoms.
- Anticonvulsants: Certain antiseizure medications like Neurontin, Lyrica, or Lamictal can reduce pain and damaged nerve problems.
- Opioids: This type of painkiller must be prescribed by a doctor and overseen by them, as well. These drugs should be used judiciously, especially long-term, because they are addictive when they are taken in an unregulated manner.
Many spinal stenosis patients benefit from becoming more active. Although this may seem like it would aggravate the problem, the opposite is true. Weaker muscles result in higher pain levels. A skilled, highly trained physical therapist can help you build up your muscle strength, stamina, endurance, and more. They can also maintain your spinal flexibility and stability while improving your posture and balance.
Your spinal cord nerve roots can become irritated, inflamed, and swollen where they are pinched by the lumbar spinal column region. Steroid medications called corticosteroids can be injected into the space around the impingement. Although this does not cure stenosis, it can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Repeated steroid injections, however, can weaken the adjacent bones and connective tissues.
This is the last resort and is only used when other treatments cannot be used or if you are handicapped by your condition. Surgical goals include pain relief, opening the narrowed lumbar spine, decompression and minimizing the risk of surgery complications. Multiple surgical procedures may be explored, minimally invasive surgeries such as laminectomy, laminotomy or laminoplasty can be performed and are very successful but, depending on the severity of the condition a spinal fusion may be recommended.
Do you have lumbar spinal stenosis and want relief from the symptoms that affect your daily life? We can help. Contact us today by dialing (727) 300-2537 to make an appointment with our office.