Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the space called the spinal canal, which is located within the backbone. The spinal canal is a small space that holds the nerve roots and spinal cord. If for any reason this space becomes smaller, it can squeeze the nerves and the spinal cord, causing pain and other symptoms. Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spinal cord, but it is more common in the lumbar region.
If you suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis you may feel various symptoms, including:
- dull or aching back pain spreading to your legs
- numbness and “pins and needles” in your legs, calves or buttocks
- weakness, or a loss of balance, and a decreased endurance for physical activities
Symptoms increase after walking a certain distance or standing for a time. Symptoms can improve when you:
- bend or lean forward
- lie down, or put your foot on a raised rest
- Medication Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—to relieve pain and inflammation
- Analgesics—to relieve pain
- Corticosteroid injections—to reduce pain and inflammation (not often used)
- Physical Therapy Special exercises can help stabilize the spinal cord by increasing muscle endurance and mobility of the spine. Exercises are, however, often ineffective in spinal stenosis.
- Support Devices Wearing a corset or lumbar brace can help stabilize the spine and alleviate pain.
- Surgery is reserved for severe cases.
- Decompression laminectomy—the removal of a build-up of bony spurs or increased bone mass in the spinal canal, which can free up space for the nerves and the spinal cord.
- Spinal fusion—the fusion of two vertebrae to provide stronger support for the spine, almost always done after decompression laminectomy
- Interspinous Process Decompression (IPD) IPD is a surgical procedure in which an implant, called the X-STOP®, is placed between two bones called spinous processes in the back of your spine. It is designed to remain safely and permanently in place without attaching to the bone or ligaments in your back.