What is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a common condition that develops over time from typical wear and tear on the lower back. Facet arthritis and disc degeneration can create abnormal narrowing, or stenosis, of the central canal. As the medium for the spinal nerves to travel, narrowing of the stenosis can lead to compression on the nerves. Spine specialist, Dr. Ernest Braxton, utilizes both conservative and advanced surgical options to treat patients suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis.

What Causes Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is caused by either a decrease in the bony openings where the nerves exit the spinal canal, or by a narrowing of the spinal canal itself. This condition is especially common among patients over age 50 and is more frequently seen in women. The narrowing is typically caused from degeneration of ligaments, joints and discs. A herniated disc can also bring a severe and rapid onset of lumbar spinal stenosis.

How Does Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Progress?

As patients age, the discs of the spine begin to lose water content and dry out. This creates a reduction in the size of the tunnels that nerves exit. Lack of disc space also leads to an increased load onto the facet joints. The protective cartilage of the joint wears away resulting in bone rubbing on bone. As a result, the body may compensate by growing new bone on the area creating bone spurs.

The progression of the lumbar spinal stenosis varies among patients. An accurate diagnosis is necessary to determine an optimal treatment plan.

How is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Diagnosed?

Dr. Braxton will take a complete medical history and conduct a physical exam. A motion test will be used to check for the forward to backward and side to side range of motion to identify pain or limitations. Imaging tests may be used to help confirm the diagnosis. This could include X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.

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Does Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Get Better?

The severity of the lumbar spinal stenosis will determine if non-surgical treatment is an appropriate option. In some cases, Dr. Braxton will prescribe conservative treatments to help a patient improve. These options include:

  • Anti-inflammatories and/or pain relievers
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Cold and heat therapies
  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Anesthetic or steroid injections

How is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Treated?

For most patients, Dr. Braxton will ensure that all conservative measures have been exhausted before considering surgical intervention. He will work closely with the patient to determine potential surgical remedies. With his complete understanding of the patient’s condition, selecting the correct surgical approach will be clear. Whether it is to create more space in the spinal canal or to stabilize the impact of degenerative process, Dr. Braxton will utilize minimally invasive techniques to return the patient to their full and active life as soon as possible.

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