If you experience greater lower back pain after standing or walking for longer periods of time, you may have lumbar spinal stenosis. Stenosis, from the Greek word for “choking,” refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal. It can cause pain, in the back and the arms and legs. If you suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis, there are a few specific treatment options that can help you reduce your pain and get back to your life. In this post, we’ll be tapping into expert knowledge to cover the symptoms of spinal stenosis and treatment options that could work for you.

What is lumbar spinal stenosis? 

Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spine canal anywhere along your back. Lumbar spinal stenosis refers specifically to narrowing that occurs within the lumbar, or lower, portion of the spine. Likewise, cervical spinal stenosis refers to narrowing within the cervical, or upper, spine.

As Mayo Clinic explains, these types of spinal stenosis often have different symptoms. Cervical stenosis often causes tingling in the hand and may also have problems with balance. Lumbar spinal stenosis, on the other hand, “can cause pain or cramping in your legs when you stand for long periods of time or when you walk. The discomfort usually eases when you bend forward or sit down.”

What Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis? | PainDoctor.com

What causes lumbar spinal stenosis? 

Lumbar spinal stenosis is most often a degenerative condition that is caused by our body’s aging. As the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains, there are other conditions that can exacerbate or increase your risk. The most common of these is arthritis.

“In the spine, arthritis can result as the disk degenerates and loses water content. In children and young adults, disks have high water content. As we get older, our disks begin to dry out and weaken. This problem causes settling, or collapse, of the disk spaces and loss of disk space height. As the spine settles, two things occur. First, weight is transferred to the facet joints. Second, the tunnels that the nerves exit through become smaller.

As the facet joints experience increased pressure, they also begin to degenerate and develop arthritis, similar to that occurring in the hip or knee joint. The cartilage that covers and protects the joints wears away. If the cartilage wears away completely, it can result in bone rubbing on bone. To make up for the lost cartilage, your body may respond by growing new bone in your facet joints to help support the vertebrae. Over time, this bone overgrowth-called spurs-may narrow the space for the nerves to pass through.”

Other less common causes of spinal stenosis include:

  • A spinal canal that is naturally narrow
  • Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine
  • Tumors in the spine
  • Achondroplasia, a condition that leads to dwarfism
  • Paget’s disease, a rare condition that leads to abnormal bone destruction and regrowth

What are known risk factors for developing lumbar spinal stenosis? 

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases reports that spinal stenosis is most common in people over the age of 50.

Other risk factors include:

  • A history of injury to the back
  • Gender, as more women than men suffer from spinal stenosis
  • Poor posture
  • Being underweight or overweight
  • Improper alignment in the body

Since being overweight puts additional strain on the spinal canal, most healthcare professionals recommend weight loss as a primary goal for managing moderate cases of spinal stenosis.

What are lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms?

Lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms will affect everyone differently. As Spine-Health reports:

“For most people, symptoms of lumbar stenosis will typically fluctuate, with some periods of more severe symptoms and some with fewer or none, but symptoms are not always progressive over time. For each person, the severity and duration of lumbar stenosis symptoms is different and often dictates whether conservative (non-surgical) treatment or lumbar spinal stenosi