Lumbar Spinal Stenosis -
The “Unknown” Spine Disorder
Originally published Winter 1999

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, medical professionals should be aware of a degenerative condition known as Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS) when treating older adults for lower back pain. An estimated 400,000 Americans suffer from this condition, but many are often misdiagnosed because its symptoms mimic those of vascular problems, arthritis or back strain. X-rays, which are usually used to screen patients for conditions with similar symptoms such as fractured and slipped vertebrae or spinal tumors, cannot detect LSS.

LSS is a degenerative narrowing of the spinal canal, causing compression of the spinal nerves and nerve roots. This condition affects the lower spine, causing pain to radiate down the back, into the thighs and legs. In its most advanced form, LSS can cause serious neurological problems, including numbness, loss of bladder control, and paralysis. While the condition is not preventable, those who suffer from it could receive treatment, and relief, earlier if the symptoms are recognized.

Common Symptoms Of LSS
- Dull to severe aching pain in lower back or buttocks
develops with walking or other activity
- Pain radiates into one or both thighs and legs (60% bilateral pain)
- Numbness, weakness, or parasthesia involving the
lower extremities
- Symptoms relieved by bending forward, sitting, or lying down

Discs dehydrate, vertebrae compress

Bones and ligaments compress the
spinal sac and nerve roots.

“Many people suffer from LSS and don’t even realize it,” said Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates physician Scott McLanahan, M.D., “They assume that what they’re feeling is just a part of old age. If a patient suffers from back pain when he or she stands or walks, and that pain is relieved by leaning forward or sitting down, LSS may be present and a consultation with a neurosurgeon should be considered.”

Treatment Options For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Anti-inflammatory Medications - Ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen and naproxen sodium are often used in the early stages to manage pain. In some cases, these medications, or a short course of oral steroids, can temporarily help.

Physical Therapy - Low back exercises, aerobic exercises and stretching help strengthen the abdominal and lumbar sacral musculature, resulting in effective, sometimes temporary, relief.

Cortisone (Epidural Steroid) Injections - These prove effective for some patients, although adverse side effects have been associated with their long-term use.

Surgery -
This is often the best long-term treatment because it removes the source of the symptoms - bone, bone spurs and ligaments causing spinal sac and nerve root compression. The majority of patients who undergo surgery report good results, often gaining years of relief and an improved quality of life.

For more information, contact Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates at 1-800-344-6716 or click here.

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