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What are the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis?

Lumbar stenosis is a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Back pain will typically initially radiate into the hips and buttocks, and over time will start going down the legs. If the symptoms become very severe, it can become difficult to walk upright. People with these symptoms may be referred to an orthopedic spine surgeon, but the vast majority of them do not need surgery.

Lumbar stenosis can present with fairly classic symptoms. It can be a sharp or burning pain associated with standing and walking, frequently getting better with rest, sitting or bending over. This makes sense anatomically. When we stand erect, our spinal canal narrows slightly. When stenosis is present, this additional narrowing can be enough to create symptoms. When we sit or bend over, our spinal canal opens a little, decreasing the degree of nerve root compression.

Dr. Don Y. Park, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Lumbar stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal with compression of the spinal roots and cauda equina. The cauda equina is the sac of nerves within the spinal canal. In lumbar spinal stenosis, enlarged and hypertrophic bones with ligaments squeeze the nerves in the canal, where usually there's a lot more room for the nerves and spinal fluid. This is typically associated with degeneration and arthritis, and it's a common cause of functional disability and symptoms in the aging population over the age of 50.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.