Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (LSS): Causes and Treatments

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a condition that causes the spinal canal to narrow. The term “stenosis” comes from the Greek word meaning “choking.” As the name suggests, when the spaces in the spine narrow, the nerves in the back are compressed, as if they’re being choked. The condition develops slowly as we age and our spines degenerate, leading to pain and discomfort in the lower back and legs.

What are the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis?

The first symptoms of LSS tend to be bouts of pain in the lower back. The pain or discomfort will generally worsen over a period of months or years and can extend down into the legs. It is common for people with LSS to find relief by bending or leaning forward, as this motion helps to open up the space in the spine and relieve the pressure on the nerves. Because standing up and walking increases the pressure on the nerves, activities that require standing or walking – doing the dishes, for example, or shopping – are difficult for the LSS patient.

Patients may not only describe their discomfort as pain; LSS symptoms include numbness, tingling, or a cramping sensation. The pain can be axial (meaning it is restricted to the lower back) or radicular (going down the legs).

What are the treatment options for lumbar spinal stenosis?

There are a variety of different options for treating LSS, ranging from conservative, non-surgical options to invasive surgical procedures.

Nonsurgical treatments include use of a cane, physical therapy, and pain medications. Doctors may also prescribe epidural steroid injections. Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence that medication or injections provide long-term relief. 

If symptoms persist for six months or longer with conservative care, back surgery may be considered. Surgical options include:

  • Laminectomy, which involves removing a portion of the vertebrae and is considered a major spine operation
  • Spinal fusion, which is a procedure that joins two or more vertebrae, often using hardware including screws and plates
  • Discectomy, which is the surgical removal of a portion of the herniated disc that may be causing LSS

All these surgical options involve permanent, irreversible changes to the spine, and often there is hospitalization and risks associated with general anesthesia.

What is the Vertiflex Procedure?

A minimally invasive alternative to irreversible back surgeries, the Vertiflex Procedure uses a small implant to help relieve pressure on the nerves in the spine caused by LSS. The small, titanium implant is placed between two vertebrae to help open the space. The placement of the implant is usually done in an outpatient setting. The Vertiflex Procedure has been shown to provide long-lasting relief from pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs, and to reduce dependence on opioid medication.1,2

What are the key points about lumbar spinal stenosis?

  • LSS is a common condition that can cause pain and numbness in the lower back and legs
  • There are a variety of treatment options, ranging from prescription medication to invasive back surgery 
  • The Vertiflex Procedure is an alternate solution that can help reduce dependence on pain medication and provide lasting relief 
  • The Vertiflex Procedure is a minimally invasive, reversible, outpatient procedure
  • The Vertiflex Procedure preserves your spinal architecture, so you still have options for further treatments in the future
  • If you are experiencing symptoms associated with LSS, it is important to visit a doctor to get a diagnosis and discuss your treatment options

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