Chronic low back pain as well as radiating discomfort down one or both legs could indicate the presence of an injury or condition, such as lumbar stenosis. Spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine commonly develops with age, characterized as the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back. When this reduction in the vertebrae occurs, extra pressure is placed on the nerves as well as the spinal cord. Because these nerves run from the lower back to the legs, symptoms of leg pain, heaviness and/or cramping may also develop.
Anatomy of the Spinal Canal
The spinal canal located in the region of the lumbar spine is the most frequent section affected by spinal stenosis. The lumbar spine is made up of five vertebrae extending between the ribcage and pelvis, medically labelled from top to bottom as L1 through L5. Each of these vertebrae are properly separated by intervertebral discs which function as shock absorbers, cushioning and distributing the pressure being exerted onto the spine.
Each vertebrae of the spine contain what is identified as vertebral arches, protruding arch-shaped bones which create the necessary space within the spinal bones for the spinal cord. That space is referred to as the spinal canal. When the structure of the spine is healthy and it functions effectively, the spinal canal should properly be capable of protecting the spinal cord, providing the necessary and safest space required to maintain overall wellness.
Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Individuals suffering from spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine commonly describe experiencing symptoms of pain and discomfort along the lower back, hips, buttocks and/or legs. Other prevalent symptoms of the condition include: lower back pain that radiated down one or both buttocks, legs, and/or feet; worsening pain in the lower extremities when walking; tingling sensations or numbness in one or both legs or feet; weakness in one or both legs or feet; restricted mobility or difficulty walking; and issues controlling bladder or bowel movements, a complication which may require immediate medical care.
Sciatica, best known as a set of symptoms rather than a single condition or disorder, can be a common diagnosis for determining the presence of an issue affecting the lower spine. Symptoms of sciatica include a collection of pain and discomfort, tingling sensations and numbness, burning sensations, and muscle weakness. Symptoms of sciatica can indicate a serious complication along the lumbar spine.
For individuals experiencing spinal stenosis in the upper back, referred to as cervical stenosis, the symptoms will be similar along the neck, shoulders, arms and/or hands.
Causes of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
The gradual degeneration of the spine caused by the natural changes that come with age are the most common cause for the narrowing of the spinal canal, mostly due to the repetitive stress and pressure of the surrounding tissues over the course of several years. As the spinal canal becomes narrower over time, a number of conditions and disorders can develop, causing the compression or impingement of the spinal cord and leading to the irritation and inflammation of the nerve roots. This process will ultimately cause symptoms to manifest along the lower back, buttocks, and/or legs.
Lumbar spinal stenosis can also be caused by the degeneration of the intervertebral discs found between each vertebrae of the spine. Spinal disc shrinkage can impede the disc’s ability to properly separate the individual bones of the spine. This problem can generally lead to a much more severe condition referred to as a lumbar disc herniation. Also, if the spinal cord ligaments have expanded due to the natural wear and tear alteration of the structures of the body, lumbar stenosis can develop. Consequently, the degeneration of the vertebrae in the spine is the most common cause for lumbar spinal stenosis.
Diagnosing Lumbar Stenosis
When visiting a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor, for the diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis, the doctor will primarily conduct a thorough physical examination of the patient to determine the source of the issue. The doctor of chiropractic, or other healthcare specialist, may also extensively review the individual’s medical history, referring them to receive other necessary or additional X-rays or MRI scans. By examining the patient’s symptoms as well as analyzing the test results, a chiropractor will be able to diagnose the individual’s injury or condition to discuss the best possible treatment options for you, including the thorough discussion of the benefits and risks of each option. Finally, the healthcare professional and patient can decide together on the preferred treatment procedure to follow to begin the rehabilitation process and restore their original health and wellness.
Treating Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Chiropractic focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of injuries and/or conditions of the musculoskeletal and nervous system. A chiropractor may commonly utilize spinal adjustments and manual manipulations to carefully correct any misalignments in the spine that may be causing the impingement or compression of the spinal nerves. The chiropractic adjustments can help decrease the stress and pressure being placed against the structures and other tissues of the spine, reducing the symptoms of pain and discomfort associated with spinal stenosis along the different regions of the spine. Furthermore, the chiropractor may recommend a series of stretches and exercises according to the individual’s complications to speed up the rehabilitation process and help them regain their original strength, flexibility and mobility.
In the case that other forms of treatment are required to treat the individual’s injuries and/or conditions, the healthcare specialist will refer the patient to other professionals for treatment. A modification of the patient’s physical activities may be recommended as well. Other healthcare providers may provide the use of medications and other treatment methods or techniques, including physical therapy, to help improve the symptoms. While many individuals may try a number of conservative treatments to solve the issue, if the individual’s condition is severe enough to require spinal surgery, a healthcare provider may refer the patient to the appropriate doctor for treatment.
For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Low Back Pain After Auto Injury
After being involved in an automobile accident, the sheer force of the impact can cause damage or injury to the body, primarily to the structures surrounding the spine. An auto collision can ultimately affect the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other tissues surrounding the spine, commonly the lumbar region of the spine, causing symptoms such as low back pain. Sciatica is a common set of symptoms after an automobile accident, which may require immediate medical attention to determine its source and follow through with treatment.