You want to stand tall, but pain in your lower back when you’re upright is forcing you over into a hunched position. This is one of the classic signs of lumbar spinal stenosis, which affects about 11% of older adults in the United States.
The good news is that 80% of this number don’t experience any symptoms. The bad news is that, if you’re reading this, you’re likely among the remaining 20% who are experiencing pain and discomfort due to lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).
In this month’s blog post, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, Robert Viere, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, is focusing on lumbar spinal stenosis, which is among the more common causes of chronic lower back pain.
Lumbar spinal stenosis basics
Outside of providing foundational support for your entire musculoskeletal system, your spine also provides passage for your spinal cord. When you have spinal stenosis, there’s a narrowing in this canal that can press up against the sensitive nerve roots that exit your spinal canal.
With lumbar spinal stenosis, it means the narrowing is inside the five large vertebrae that make up your lower back and the stenosis is affecting one or more of the five pairs of nerve roots that exit your spine in this area.
Causes of lumbar spinal stenosis
The reason LSS tends to affect the older population is that the condition is most often caused by degenerative changes in your spine.
More specifically, LSS can occur because of arthritis in the facet joints along your spine, which causes them to become bigger. Or, degenerative disc disease can lead to a collapse in your intervertebral discs, which reduces the amount of room for your spinal nerves. Last, the ligaments along your spine can thicken with age, which can lead to LSS.
Signs of LSS
One of the hallmarks of LSS is the symptom we described at the beginning of the blog — pain when standing up straight. This pain can strike when you first get out of bed, making standing up straight difficult because of pain in your lower back.
The pain can also develop after you’ve been on your feet for a little bit, such as when you’re grocery shopping, and the discomfort is only relieved when you lean forward on your cart, taking pressure off of your lumbar spine.
In addition to this localized pain, the stenosis can affect nerves that travel down into your legs, so your discomfort may radiate down one side of your buttocks and into one leg. Aside from the leg pain, you may also experience numbness and tingling in your lower limbs.
In extreme cases of LSS, your bladder function can be affected, which can leave you with incontinence.
Finding relief for your lower back pain
The best way to determine whether LSS is behind your lower back pain is to come see us. After reviewing your symptoms and using advanced imaging to check for stenosis, we can come up with a treatment plan that will have you walking tall, and pain-free, again.
In most cases, we prefer to start out conservatively with physical therapy and interventional injections. We can also use radiofrequency ablation to quiet the compressed nerves.
If these conservative measures don’t prove successful, we can discuss surgical options that will relieve the nerve compression in your lower back.
To figure out whether your lower back pain is related to LSS, please contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to schedule a consultation today.