Lumbar Spinal Stenosis


The lumbar spine, in the lower back, is made up of five vertebral bodies. Nerves from the spinal cord travel through the spinal canal and exit through small openings on the site of the vertebrae called foramen. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition where either spinal canal or vertebral foramen becomes narrowed. Substantial narrowing causes compression of the nerves, creating painful symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis.

Causes of Lumbar Stenosis

Degenerative arthritis is the most common cause of lumbar spinal stenosis. Arthritis in the spine is a natural occurrence of the aging process. Degenerative arthritis can result in the loss of cartilage between bones at the joints, overgrowth of the ligamentous structures (hypertrophy), formation of bone spurs (osteophytes) and the loss of the normal disc height between vertebrae (degenerative disc disease).

Lumbar spinal stenosis can be caused by any of these processes, because they all minimize the space available for nerves, which press against the nerve tissue. Lumbar spinal stenosis can also be caused by other conditions, including:

  • Spinal tumors
  • Spinal infections
  • Metabolic bone disorders

Symptoms of Lumbar Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause various painful symptoms, including:

  • Lower back pain
  • Weakness throughout the body
  • Numbness, pain and loss of sensation in the legs

Leaning or sitting forward can improve pain symptoms because bending forward increases the space in the spinal canal. Bending backward, however, decreases the space in the spinal canal which usually make symptoms worse. Generally, painful sensations will shoot down the legs with continued walking.

Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis gradually worsen over time.
Degenerative arthritis is a progressive disease that worsens as time goes on. The compression on the nerves can create increasing weakness and loss of leg function. The loss of bowel and bladder control, along with sexual function, can also occur.