Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

James M. Leipzig, MD, FACS

Spinal Surgeons located in Roanoke, VA

Lower back pain is often a result of wear-and-tear conditions like lumbar spinal stenosis. If you’ve been experiencing pain and weakness or sciatica in your lower back, James Leipzig, MD, FACS, of The Spine Center in Roanoke, Virginia, can help. Dr. Leipzig specializes in using minimally invasive techniques, including robotic spine surgery, to resolve painful and disabling lumbar spinal stenosis. For lower back pain relief, call The Spine Center or request an appointment online today.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

What is lumbar spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis results from changes that occur naturally in the spine as you age. With lumbar spinal stenosis, these changes affect your lower back (the lumbar spine). 

Many people have lumbar spinal stenosis without experiencing any real problems, but some find that the changes result in pinched nerves (lumbar radiculopathy).

Inside the column of vertebrae that make up your spine, there is a hollow space — the spinal canal — that forms a protective channel for your spinal cord. Stenosis is a term for narrowing, which occurs in the spinal canal if you have spinal stenosis.

What are the causes of spinal stenosis?

The narrowing of your spinal canal that creates lumbar spinal stenosis is generally brought on by arthritis or other degenerative changes that cause the spongy discs between your vertebrae to flatten, herniate, or wear away.

Arthritic changes result in a loss of protective cartilage that leads to bone-on-bone friction. Your body may respond by increasing the size of the ligaments in that area or producing new bone (osteophytes or bone spurs).

These changes all cause shrinkage of the spinal canal, leaving insufficient room for the spinal cord. The result is compression of the nerves coming off your spinal cord.

What symptoms does lumbar spinal stenosis cause?

Pressure on your spinal nerves can cause symptoms such as:

  • Back pain
  • Pain in the buttocks
  • Leg pain or heaviness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of function

The severity of your lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms depends on the degree of nerve compression.

What treatments are available for lumbar spinal stenosis?

Treatments for lumbar spinal stenosis typically begin with conservative approaches such as physical therapies, medication, and activity modification. Steroid injections may help reduce nerve inflammation.

If thickened ligaments are causing your lumbar spinal stenosis, percutaneous image-guided lumbar decompression (PILD) may be a possibility. This is a nonsurgical procedure in which your provider uses fine instruments to remove some of the thickened ligament, increasing spinal canal space and relieving nerve root compression.

If your symptoms persist despite these treatments, The Spine Center specializes in performing lumbar spinal stenosis surgery.

What does surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis involve?

In most cases, The Spine Center uses minimally invasive techniques to perform surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis. The advantages of a minimally invasive approach include less pain, fewer risks, and immediate mobility.

There are several options for lumbar spinal stenosis surgery. One that The Spine Center uses with great success is direct lateral interbody fusion (DLIF).

DLIF involves accessing the spine through your side. After removing the diseased disc, your surgeon inserts a synthetic spacer that creates more room in your spinal canal. They may also use metal rods and screws to stabilize your spine.

If you’re experiencing pain and mobility issues because of spinal stenosis, call The Spine Center or request an appointment online today.