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Lumbar canal stenosis

What is Lumbar canal stenosis?

Lumbar canal stenosis is a condition resulting from narrowing of the spinal canal (through which the nerves pass) in the lower back leading to pain in the legs on standing and walking.

What causes it?

Narrowing of the canal in spinal canal stenosis is caused by degeneration (wear and tear) of the intervertebral disc, arthritis of the facet joints and encroachment of the spinal canal by ligaments. Narrowing of the spinal canal reduces the space available for the nerves and may cause symptoms.

What are the symptoms/effects?

The characteristic symptoms are a cramping pain in both legs on standing and walking which is relieved by sitting and bending forward. In addition, patients may experience weakness and numbness in the legs on walking. Back pain may or may not be present.

How is it diagnosed?

Lumbar canal stenosis is diagnosed by a thorough history and clinical examination and confirmed by an MRI scan. The MRI scans reveals the level of the lesion and the extent of neural compression.

What are the treatment options?

The choice of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms. Surgery is indicated when the a) symptoms are causing significant restriction of day to day activities (especially walking distance) b) failure of symptoms to subside after non-operative treatment, b) significant weakness in the legs and feet at presentation and c) involvement of the bladder with difficulty in passing urine. Surgery may be in the form of a decompression (removing compression from the nerves) with or without a fusion.

Who is at risk?/How can I prevent it?

Degenerative lumbar canal stenosis is seen in older populations.