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Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

A diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis is given when an individual has symptoms that show that the spinal canal is narrowing. Many times this is due to the aging process. However, it can also be caused by other things such as a fracture of the spine, infection, a herniated or slipped disc, tumors or arthritis.

To understand lumbar spinal stenosis you need to image the spinal canal as a tunnel or circle. Inside the tunnel or circle is where all of your nerves travel. If any narrowing occurs in the tunnel pressure is placed on the nerves.

To determine whether a patient is diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis a physician will go over a patient's history. A physical exam will also be given, as well as x-rays and other imaging studies. Complaints that a patient may have if he or she has lumbar spinal stenosis is weakness, numbness or pain in the legs. Patients may also say they feel tingling. In addition, patients will generally state that they find relief when they sit and that there pain or discomfort is highest when they are either standing or walking. This is a common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis because the spinal tunnel is at its largest when an individual is seated and at its narrowest when an individual is walking or standing.

Severe cases of lumbar spinal stenosis can result in paralysis. It is a good idea to visit your doctor if you suspect that you may have lumbar spinal stenosis. There are several ways of treating lumbar spinal stenosis. Non surgical treatments include bracing, physical therapy, restriction of a patient's activities, epidural steroid injections and various alternative medicine and therapy treatments.

Surgical treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis involves making the spinal tunnel larger to take the pressure off of the nerves. However, surgery is usually only performed after all other attempts to relieve the symptoms have been exhausted. Many times injections and therapy bring relief to patients. Individuals who find no relief with non surgical treatments find that surgery does bring relief. The goal of surgery is to loosen up the areas of the spinal canal that have become constricted. There are occasions when it is necessary to do a fusion. A fusion is performed if the spine has degenerated and it is difficult to stabilize. A spinal fusion involves putting bone over the problem area to make it stable.

Patients who have surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis should expect to be in a bit of pain and discomfort for a few days after surgery. The first day after surgery and individual will be asked to sit on the side of their bed and. The next few days a patient will be asked to get up and walk. They will also be asked to walk up and down stairs. A hospital stay for surgery without a fusion is generally three days. A hospital stay when a fusion has been done will generally be five or six days.

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