Skip to content

Back Pain Health Center

Font Size

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis - Topic Overview

ortho_04.jpg

This topic is about spinal stenosis of the lower back, also known as the lumbar area. If you need information on spinal stenosis of the neck, see the topic Cervical Spinal Stenosis.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing camera.gif of the spinal canal camera.gif in the lower back, known as the lumbar area.

This usually happens when bone or tissue—or both—grow in the openings in the spinal bones. This growth can squeeze and irritate nerves that branch out from the spinal cord camera.gif.

The result can be pain, numbness, or weakness, most often in the legs, feet, and buttocks.

It's most often caused by changes that can happen as people age. For example:

  • Connective tissues called ligaments get thicker.
  • Arthritis leads to the growth of bony spurs that push on the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord.
  • Discs between the bones may be pushed backward into the spinal canal.

Symptoms may include:

  • Numbness, weakness, cramping, or pain in the legs, feet, or buttocks. These symptoms get worse when you walk, stand straight, or lean backward. The pain gets better when you sit down or lean forward.
  • Stiffness in the legs and thighs.
  • Low back pain.
  • In severe cases, loss of bladder and bowel control.

Symptoms may be severe at times and not as bad at other times. Most people aren't severely disabled. In fact, many people don't have symptoms at all.

Your doctor can tell if you have it by asking questions about your symptoms and past health and by doing a physical exam.

You will probably need imaging tests such as an MRI, a CT scan, and sometimes X-rays.

You can most likely control mild to moderate symptoms with pain medicines, exercise, and physical therapy. Your doctor may also give you a spinal shot of corticosteroid, a medicine that reduces inflammation.

You may need surgery if your symptoms get worse or if they limit what you can do. Surgery to remove bone and tissue that are squeezing the nerve roots can help relieve leg pain and allow you to get back to normal activity. But it may not help back pain as much.

    1|2
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Woman holding lower back
    Or is it another form of back pain?
    Hand on back
    Eight out of 10 us will have it. Here’s the myths vs. the facts.
     
    Woman doing pilates
    Good and bad exercises
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Use it to manage your pain.
     
    Man with enhanced spinal column, rear view
    Video
    pain in brain and nerves
    Slideshow
     
    Chronic Pain Healtcheck
    Health Check
    break at desk
    Article
     
    Woman holding lower back
    Slideshow
    Weight Loss Surgery
    Slideshow
     
    lumbar spine
    Slideshow
    back pain
    Article