Spine Association for Education

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Condition Overview

Your spine provides a protective “tunnel” for the spinal cord. Sometimes, because of aging, illness, or an accident, a section of this “tunnel,” the spinal canal, can become narrow. When this narrowing occurs, it can irritate or “choke” spinal nerve roots, the sciatic nerve, or even the spinal cord itself, resulting in a wide range of symptoms. Stenosis in the neck is called Cervical Spinal Stenosis. In the upper back, it’s called Thoracic Spinal Stenosis. And in the lower back, the most common of all, it’s called Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms generally develop slowly over time and can encompass weakness, numbness, and tingling and/or pain in the buttocks, legs, or even the feet—especially when walking. Typically, with Spinal Stenosis, the pain can be alleviated somewhat by resting or maintaining a flexed position. Symptoms can also fluctuate and may include bowel and bladder issues.

Methods of Diagnosis

Because many of its symptoms resemble those of other age-related conditions, Spinal Stenosis can be difficult to diagnose. In addition to a basic physical or neurological exam, a battery of imaging tests—including X-rays or MRI and CT myelogram scans—are typically used to diagnose Lumbar Spinal Stenosis.

Methods of Treatment

Treatment can range from pain relief medicine and exercise to physical therapy and/or corticosteroid injections. However, if symptoms become severe—or chronically restrict normal daily life—several effective, minimally invasive surgical procedures are now available.


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