A: Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of space around the spinal cord in the low back that causes nerve pinching, which can lead to persistent pain in the buttocks, limping, lack of feeling in the legs and decreased physical activity. It can also lead to the condition known as sciatica depending on where the narrowing is present in the spinal column. Along with spinal stenosis, people will commonly develop muscles that are tight and also muscles that are weak and need strengthening.
There are several different types of spinal stenosis. The most common is degenerative stenosis, which is a common aging process and can be found in nearly everyone as we get older. Acquired lumbar spinal stenosis is also common and generally develops when patients are in their 60s or older. There is also congenital lumbar stenosis, which is relatively rare and usually presents at an early age, often between 30 and 40.
Spinal stenosis is usually diagnosed by an MRI or other imaging tests. Treatment may include medication for pain and/or inflammation, injections for pain relief, rest, restriction of activity and also physical therapy. Physical therapists can help relieve some of the symptoms caused by spinal stenosis through the use of soft tissue mobilization and exercise. If these conservative treatments do not help relieve symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Information provided by Mike Burggraaf, PT, DPT, LAT, Core Physical Therapy Inc., 516 Nile Kinnick Drive S., Suite B, Adel, 993-5599.