Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, can affect any part of the spine. This condition is most common in the lower back – resulting in lumbar spinal stenosis. When the space within the spinal canal becomes more narrow, pressure is placed on the spinal cord or the nerves that lead to the legs. Degeneration within the spine is expected with aging, but the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis can be more severe than the standard aches and pains of getting older. At OrthoGeorgia, our orthopaedic spine specialists work with patients of all ages to diagnose and treat conditions and injuries of the back and neck, including lumbar spinal stenosis. When you visit us, we will take the time needed to accurately determine the cause of your symptoms and help get you on the path to relief. Learn more about lumbar spinal stenosis and how we treat it at OrthoGeorgia below.
What are the Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause several symptoms that limit someone’s ability to continue regular activities. Since this condition is most commonly caused by arthritis, pain in the lower back is a prevalent symptom. Patients may also notice an aching or burning feeling (sciatica) in the buttocks or legs. As pressure on the nerves continues to increase, patients may experience weakness in the legs. Symptoms often develop and worsen over time. Someone with early lumbar spinal stenosis may not have any symptoms at all.
Diagnosis of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
An accurate diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis will ensure that you will be able to take the right steps toward relief from your symptoms. Your spine specialist at OrthoGeorgia will ask questions about your symptoms and conduct a complete physical exam. They will look for signs of the condition, such as weakness and loss of sensation. Spinal imaging may also be ordered. These types of tests can include X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans. These imaging tests will allow your doctor to review the anatomy and alignment of your spine as part of the diagnostic process. This process will also allow your physician to rule out other causes of similar symptoms, such as osteoarthritis of the hip.
Treatment of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis in Central GA
Treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis often starts with conservative methods. Surgery may be considered if nonsurgical treatments do not help. Your care team at OrthoGeorgia will create a personalized treatment plan for you while answering any questions you have along the way.
Nonsurgical Treatment for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
There are several nonsurgical treatment options for lumbar spinal stenosis. NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) can address inflammation of the spinal joints and help reduce pain. Medications cannot eliminate the narrowing of the spinal canal, but addressing inflammation in the area can help relieve pressure. Steroid injections can also reduce swelling. Along with medication, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. Your physical therapy plan will be personalized to you and your unique situation and will likely include exercises to strengthen your back and leg muscles. Your therapist will also show you how to safely and comfortably stretch and do activities.
Do I Need Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
Surgery is usually only necessary for lumbar spinal stenosis when nonsurgical treatments have failed to make a difference for the patient. Those who choose to undergo surgery for this condition often find that their back and leg pain severely limits their normal activities and quality of life. There are several different surgical options for lumbar spinal stenosis. Your doctor will walk you through your options and let you know which type of surgery is best suited for you. The two most common surgeries for lumbar spinal stenosis are:
Laminectomy – During a laminectomy, your doctor will remove bone spurs and ligaments compressing the nerves in the spine. This creates more space for the nerves and helps to relieve pressure.
Spinal Fusion – Spinal fusion creates a solid connection between two or more vertebrae in the lower back and stabilizes the spine. This method is normally chosen when arthritis in the spine has worsened and is causing spinal instability.
Other Spine and Back Conditions We Treat at OrthoGeorgia
At OrthoGeorgia, our spine specialists have years of experience in diagnosing and treating all manner of conditions and injuries of the back and neck. We understand that spinal issues can severely limit physical activities and make daily life difficult. If you believe you are suffering from any of the issues below, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at OrthoGeorgia.