HomeHealth articlesspinal stenosisLumbar Spinal Stenosis - Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis - Know It All

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5 min read


The narrowing of the spaces in the lower spinal cord is lumbar stenosis. Read below to know more about the same.

Written by

Dr. Sanchana. N

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Atul Prakash

Published At September 5, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 5, 2023


Lumbar spinal stenosis is a medical condition in which the narrowing of the spinal canal takes place in the lower back region, known as the lumbar spine. This narrowing can pressurize the spinal cord and the nerves that pass through the spinal canal, presenting various signs and symptoms.

What Are the Causes of Lumbar Stenosis?

Aging naturally causes degeneration of the spine which is the most common cause of lumbar spine stenosis. As the discs between the vertebrae wear down and the ligaments thicken, the spinal canal may become constricted, leading to symptoms such as:

  1. Lower Back Pain: Persistent pain in the lower back is a common symptom.

  2. Leg Pain or Numbness: Pressure on the nerves can cause pain, tingling, or weakness in the legs.

  3. Difficulty Walking: The pain and nerve compression can lead to difficulty walking or a feeling of weakness in the legs.

  4. Neurogenic Claudication: Claudication is a type of leg pain that occurs during walking or standing and improves with sitting or bending forward.

How Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

Confirming the medical condition of lumbar spinal stenosis typically involves a combination of medical history evaluation, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging. Here is how the process usually unfolds:

1. Medical History: The healthcare provider will begin by taking a detailed medical history, asking about the symptoms, their duration, and any factors that aggravate or alleviate them. They will also inquire about the medical history, past injuries, and any other relevant health conditions.

2. Physical Examination: The next step is a thorough physical examination. The doctor will assess the posture and range of motion and perform neurological tests to check for any signs of nerve compression. They may also check for muscle weakness, reflexes, and any sensory abnormalities in the legs.

3. Imaging Tests: To confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of lumbar spinal stenosis, the doctor prescribes the below-named imaging tests.

  • X-rays: X-rays can show the alignment of the vertebrae and whether there are any signs of degeneration, such as bone spurs.

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): MRI provides detailed images of the spine and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and nerves. It can show any narrowing of the spinal canal, herniated discs, or other abnormalities.

  • CT (Computed Tomography) Scan: CT scans may be used to provide more detailed images of the bony structures of the spine and can help evaluate the extent of stenosis.

4. Other Tests: In some cases, additional tests such as electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies may be performed to assess nerve function and identify any nerve compression or damage.

5. Response to Treatment: Sometimes, a doctor may initiate conservative treatment based on the symptoms and suspected diagnosis. If the symptoms improve with conservative measures, it can further support the diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis.

6. Specialist Consultation: In complex cases or if the diagnosis is uncertain, the healthcare provider may refer a specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon or a neurosurgeon, for further evaluation and opinion.

It is essential to work closely with the healthcare provider and provide them with all the relevant information about the symptoms and medical history. This will help them make an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment plan tailored to their specific needs.

How Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treated?

The treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis depends on the severity of the condition and the extent of symptoms experienced by the individual. In most cases, the initial approach is to try conservative treatments before considering surgical options. Here are some common treatment options:

  1. Physical Therapy: Doing physiotherapy on a regular basis strengthens the muscles that support the spine and improves flexibility. Specific exercises can also help relieve pressure on the affected nerves and reduce pain.

  2. Pain Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to manage mild to moderate pain. In more severe cases, prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants or nerve pain medications, may be prescribed.

  3. Epidural Steroid Injections: These injections deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly into the affected area around the spinal nerves to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.

  4. Lifestyle Modifications: Simple adjustments in daily activities can help manage symptoms. Avoiding activities that worsen pain and maintaining good posture can be beneficial.

  5. Assistive Devices: Using devices like a cane or walker can help provide support during walking and reduce pressure on the spine.

  6. Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce stress on the spine and alleviate symptoms.

  7. Alternative Therapies: Some people find relief through complementary treatments such as chiropractic care, acupuncture, or massage therapy. However, the efficacy of various therapies varies, so speak with a healthcare provider before starting them.

  8. Surgery: If conservative treatments do not provide sufficient relief or if the condition is severe, surgery may be considered. Decompressing the spinal canal and reducing pressure on the nerves are the two objectives of the surgery. There are different surgical approaches, such as laminectomy, laminotomy, or spinal fusion, depending on the specific case.

Working together with their healthcare physician will help people with lumbar spinal stenosis decide the best course of action for their unique set of symptoms and medical history. Regular follow-ups and adherence to the recommended treatment plan can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for those affected by this condition.

How Can Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Be Prevented?

While it may not always be possible to prevent lumbar spinal stenosis entirely, Certain dietary and lifestyle modifications can help lower the chance of contracting the illness or slow its progression. Here are some preventive measures that may be beneficial:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Obesity places additional strain on the spine and has been shown to hasten the deterioration of the spinal discs. Reduce lower back pain by eating a balanced diet, exercising frequently, and maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Exercise Regularly: The muscles that support the spine can become more flexible and stronger with regular exercise. Low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or cycling are often recommended to minimize impact on the spine while providing numerous health benefits.

  • Practice Good Posture: Be mindful of the posture during various activities, such as sitting, standing, and lifting heavy objects. Maintaining a neutral spine position can help reduce the risk of spinal compression.

  • Use Proper Body Mechanics: When lifting objects, bend the knees and keep the back straight. Avoid lifting heavy items using the back by bending at the waist.

  • Avoid Prolonged Sitting or Standing: If the job or lifestyle involves prolonged sitting or standing, take regular breaks and engage in stretching or walking to alleviate stress on the lower back.

  • Quit Smoking: Smoking can impair blood flow to the spinal tissues, leading to accelerated degeneration of the spine. Cessation of the habit can benefit the health of the spine.

  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water supports the hydration and nutrition of spinal discs, promoting their health.

  • Use Ergonomic Furniture: Make sure the workspace, furniture, and mattress are ergonomically designed to provide proper support for the spine.

  • Avoid Excessive Strain on the Back: Avoid activities that involve excessive twisting or impact on the spine, as they can contribute to degradation over time.

  • Regular Check-Ups: Regularly visit the healthcare provider for check-ups, especially if experiencing any back pain or related symptoms. Early detection and appropriate management of spinal issues can help prevent further complications.


It is important to remember that lumbar spinal stenosis can also be caused by natural age-related changes, which cannot be entirely prevented. However, by adopting a healthy lifestyle and practicing proper body mechanics, the risk can be minimized and potentially delay the onset of symptoms associated with lumbar spinal stenosis. If persistent back pain or other symptoms are experienced, consult a healthcare professional for a proper evaluation and personalized advice.

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Dr. Atul Prakash
Dr. Atul Prakash

Orthopedician and Traumatology


spinal stenosislumbar spinal stenosis
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