Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Overview

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a condition where the spinal canal narrows, compressing the spinal cord and nerves in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine.

Typically occurring in adults over 60, this condition is the result of the natural degeneration of the spine due to aging. In a small number of cases, patients have congenital (present from birth) spinal stenosis.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

The most common cause of spinal stenosis is arthritis, the degeneration of the joints of the body. Arthritis results from the discs between the vertebrae drying out and weakening, causing a collapse of the space between the vertebrae known as settling.

As the spine settles, the weight of the body is transferred to the facet joints and the tunnels the nerves travel through become smaller. When the facet joints experience this pressure, they also develop arthritis. Then, as the pressure eats away cartilage, bone-on-bone contact may result in bone spurs which narrow the nerve space.

Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

As the space around the spinal canal narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots, symptoms that may appear include:

  • Back pain
  • Burning pain in the legs or buttocks
  • Numbness/tingling in the legs or buttocks
  • Reduced pain with sitting or leaning forward
  • Weakness in the legs or the sensation of the foot slapping the ground while walking

How Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

After taking a medical history and symptoms, Dr. LaRocca will perform a physical examination. During the exam, you may be asked to stand and bend in different positions to determine the source of pain or limitations in motion.

Diagnostic tests may also be recommended to confirm a diagnosis including:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan to create cross-section images of the spine.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for taking images of the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles, nerves and spinal cord.
  • Myelogram, a procedure in which dye is injected into the spine to highlight the nerves to determine if the nerves are compressed.
  • X-rays show aging in the bone and changes in the spine such as bone spurs. X-rays that are taken while you’re leaning forward or backward can also reveal instability in the joints.

What Treatment Options Are Available For Spinal stenosis?

At New Jersey Neck & Back Institute (NJNBI), Dr. LaRocca and his experienced team offer an array of treatment options to fit individual needs, including:

  • Acupuncture
  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Cortisone steroid injections around the nerves
  • Laminectomy
  • Lumbar tractions
  • Physical therapy
  • Spinal fusion