What are the structures involved and what spinal stenosis is?
The lumbar spine ( lower back) is the structure that carries the weight of the upper body. The bones that make up the lumbar spine are the vertebrae. The spinal canal runs through the vertebrae and contains the nerves that supply sensation and strength to the legs. Located between the vertebrae are the intervertebral discs and the spinal facet joints. When the discs dehydrated with age they compress, bulging into the spinal canal. At the same time the bones and ligaments of the spinal facet joints can thicken and enlarge causing more pressure onto the spinal canal. These factors are lead to spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of spaces in the spine, possibly causing nerve pinching in time.
Signs and symptoms
Some people don't have symptoms but may have significant stenosis on imaging studies. Most patients with lumbar spinal stenosis have a long history of back, buttocks, or leg pain. These symptoms slowly increase in time and sometimes it take years . Lumbar spinal stenosis causes claudication. The pain worsens when walking upright and standing. Usually sitting down or leaning forward can relieve these symptoms. Some patients find it easier to lean forward while walking. These positions are more comfortable because it opens up the spinal canal relieving pressure from the nerves. Numbness and tingling can coincide with the pain.
People who are born with narrower spinal canals are more likely to develop this problem. The best way try to avoid this problem is to stay physically fit though out your lifetime. Regular exercise strengthening the back muscles provides needed support to the spin. Avoiding weight gain can decrease the load that the spine has to carry. Patients should avoid cigarette smoking. Both the smoke and the nicotine cause the spine to degenerate faster then normal. There is a huge risk for fall for the elderly...