What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Understanding Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Spinal pain is one of the most common ailments today. More than 85% of Americans will experience back or spinal pain at some point during their lives. Spinal pain may result from accidents, congenital causes, wear and tear, age, or a combination of these. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is a common spinal condition which can make walking an uncomfortable or even painful activity.

The spine grows and changes from childhood into old age. Most of the time, these changes are not noticeable.

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a common condition which is currently estimated to affect over 400,000 Americans.

Over time, the spine may experience degeneration of bone, muscle, and tissue. The spinal column can shrink or narrow, compressing the nerves inside. This narrowing can result in the development of LSS. Spinal stenosis can occur anywhere in the back, but lumbar spinal stenosis specifically affects the lower back.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

LSS is usually the result of age and wear, also known as osteoarthritis. LSS most commonly affects adults who are 50 years or older.

In addition to osteoarthritis, several other factors can lead to the development of LSS:

  • Some Bone Diseases
  • Spinal Injury
  • Spinal Tumor
  • Narrow Spinal Canal
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

In rare instances, younger people can be affected by LSS. Development in these cases usually results from spinal injury or a preexisting curvature.

Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Many people do not notice any symptoms, but others can experience pain, numbness, and discomfort. Over time, these symptoms can become debilitating and result in a decreased quality of life. In very rare cases, LSS can cause nerve damage. Common symptoms include:

  • Leg pain, also known as sciatica
  • Leg pain while walking
  • Pain which comes and goes and is not constant
  • Numbness, weakness, or tingling which originates in the lower back and radiates to the buttocks and legs
  • Loss of sensation in the feet

Severe Symptoms of LSS

  • Widespread or severe numbness in one or both legs
  • Difficulty controlling bowel and bladder movements
  • Extreme pain and/or weakness which spreads to both legs, resulting in difficulty standing and walking, requires prompt medical attention

LSS can be diagnosed with X-rays, a CT scan, bone scan, or MRI scan. There are three main types of stenosis, each of which must be treated differently.

  • Central Stenosis: Occurs when a nerve in the lower back is compressed or choked, possibly resulting in compression of the cauda equina nerve roots. The cauda equina nerve roots are located at the bottom of the spinal cord.
  • Foraminal Stenosis: Occurs when a nerve in the lower back is trapped or compressed by a bone spur in the foramen. The foramen is where the spinal nerve leaves the spinal canal.
  • Lateral Stenosis: Occurs when a nerve is compressed by an outside force, including a disc or other protrusion. The most common type of stenosis.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for lumbar spinal stenosis. However, both surgical and non-surgical options exist to treat the condition.


  • Physical Therapy
  • Bracing
  • Medication
  • Epidural Injections
  • A combination of the above


  • Widening the space between vertebrae
  • Removing bone spurs
  • Fusing certain bones together

Surgical options are generally reserved as a last resort, or for severe cases of LSS. The treatment type will vary from person to person, and the final choice is always the patient’s decision.

Reducing Your Risk for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is not a preventable condition. You can, however, reduce your risk of developing LSS by keeping your spine healthy.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise is an easy way to strengthen and maintain healthy back muscles, and keep your spine flexible. Exercise also helps promote a healthy weight, which reduces the stress on your lower back.
  • Practice Good Posture: Many people sit in an office all day, and it can be very easy to slouch over a long period of time. Practicing good posture minimizes the strain on your back, as well as decrease excess wear on joints or ligaments.
  • Lift and Carry Heavy Objects Properly: If you lift or carry heavy objects on a regular basis, always remember to lift with your knees and carry the object close to your body.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treatment at Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health

If your back is causing you excessive pain or discomfort, you may want to consider seeking medical advice. Florida Medical Clinic Orlando Health’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is a wonderful resource to consult for spinal pain, spinal injuries, spinal surgery, and more.

Our leading specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Cronen, is highly skilled and experienced in diagnosing and treating all types of spinal conditions. His wealth of knowledge has helped hundreds of patients restore their quality of life.

You don’t have to live with persistent back pain!

Make an appointment today by calling (813) 979-0440.


Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine & Spine

About this author.


Geoffrey Cronen, MD

Spine Surgery, Orthopaedic Surgery

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