On the one hand, you know it’s good for the health of your spine to stand up straight and tall. On the other hand, the pain and discomfort that comes with this good posture sends you straight back to hunching over.
If this sounds familiar, the odds are fairly good that you’re dealing with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).
LSS is a leading cause of lower back pain, and it affects about 11% of adults in the United States. This number climbs to 20% for people over the age of 60, but 80% of this group doesn't have any symptoms.
If you’re among the unfortunate 20% of people who develop symptomatic LSS, here’s a look at what our team here at Pain Medicine Consultants wants you to know about this type of back pain.
A narrow problem
The word “stenosis” refers to narrowing, and in the case of LSS, it’s a narrowing of the spinal canal in your lower back. This narrowing can compress the sensitive nerve roots that exit your spine in your lower back, which is what leads to symptoms (more on these in a moment).
There are several issues that can lead to LSS, chief among them:
Arthritis in your facet joints
If the facet joints in your spine develop arthritis, they can enlarge and lead to narrowing in your spinal canal and nerve compression.
Degenerative disc disease
As you get older, your discs can flatten out and invade the space inside in your spinal canal.
If the ligaments that support your cervical spine thicken, they can reduce the available space in your spinal canal.
Signs of lumbar spinal stenosis
One of the first signs of LSS is pain in your lower back, especially under certain conditions.
For example, you may wake in the morning and find it impossible to stand up straight because of lower back pain. Or when you’re on your feet and walking, you may find that you need to hunch over to relieve the nerve compression in your lower spine.
This pain can also radiate into your buttocks and legs, depending on the extent of the nerve compression and which nerves are affected.
Other than pain, you can also experience numbness and tingling in your lower extremities.
In extreme cases of LSS, the nerves that control bladder function can become compromised and lead to incontinence and other urinary issues.
Treating lumbar spinal stenosis
The good news is that there are solutions for LSS, and the sooner you come to see us, the better. We prefer to start out conservatively with:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Activity modification
- Physical therapy
To relieve the immediate pain, we might recommend an interventional therapy, such as a steroid injection or nerve block. For longer-term results, we may recommend regenerative medicine to help address the underlying stenosis.
If your LSS continues to cause discomfort and quality-of-life issues despite these efforts, it may be time to discuss spinal cord stimulation or surgical options.
But let’s stop here before we get too far into potential treatments. The most important step to take is to schedule a diagnostic appointment with us so that we can get you on the road to relief.
To get started, contact one of our offices in Pleasanton, Pleasant Hill, or Corte Madera, California, to schedule an appointment.