Discovering Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis may not be as known as other lower back conditions, yet it is seen among patients with back pain more often than people might think. The definition of this type of stenosis is simple; shrinking spaces in the spine affect nerves as they vie for space in the area. It happens most often in the lower back to people who are 60 and over and happens relatively slowly over time. More women are likely to have Arlington spine stenosis than men, but it can affect anyone without warning.

What Causes This Condition?

Osteoarthritis comes from the aging of joints in the spinal area, it can lead to stenosis whether treated or not. The disks become hard and bulge into the spine for an added amount of pain throughout. If bone spurs are present, they can contribute to the condition; previous surgeries or injuries to the spine are other causes that might be contributing factors.

Symptoms

Pain can be severe in some cases with an unbearable amount of force pushing against the selected area. Burning pain with numbness and weakness can be felt in the legs and buttocks. Cramping happens when a person is walking, but it can easily appear when sitting or laying down. As people sleep, the powerful cramps could cause sleepless nights as well as standing up in hopes of slowing its control. There can be loss in control of the bowel functions, sexual functions could be affected as well.

Diagnosis

To diagnose lumbar spinal stenosis, a doctor will use x-rays. These diagnostic procedures are used to look for conditions such as bone spurs, during this time the doctor can see if the spine is aligned properly. Imaging is also used as a diagnostic tool; the CT scan is done to create a more in-depth image of the body. A CT myelogram is conducted after contrast dye is injected and the MRI has magnets and radio waves to get a look at the spine, discs, and ligaments. The choice to do one or all of these tests lies with the doctor as they need the most thorough pictures to make a complete diagnosis. Some may choose to order more than one in an abundance of caution.

Treatments

There are non-surgical and surgical options available depending on how severe the symptoms are. Anti-inflammatory medications can be given that can help with pain and swelling; some of the best known are ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Also, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications both give relief from pain in certain cases. The choice to include either could depend on past medical issues as well as a history of certain illnesses. A doctor can prescribe something if these do not help, but prescription medication can be used only for a short time due to the risks of addiction. Steroid injections can be given in the area of the stenosis. It will not cure the problem but will help with swelling and pain which increases the level of discomfort. Physical therapy is used to build strength and flexibility while improving balance. Surgery becomes an option if nothing else works to relieve pain. In these situations, some of the vertebrae can be fused together, or if bone spurs are present, removed. A laminotomy also cuts a small opening and takes out some of the laminae. This will relieve the pressure on nerves in that spot but could be considered a last option for many in search of pain relief.