Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is an irreversible change in the vertebrae, also called the spinal bones of the lumbar or low back area. These changes typically occur gradually. Symptoms of pain and dysfunction can be constant or intermittent. Recovery time from lumbar spinal stenosis is dependent on the severity, symptoms and underlying problems.
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition of narrowing of the spinal canal of the low back. The spinal canal is the space in the vertebrae or spinal bones which accommodates the spinal cord. This reduction of space can result in compression of the spinal cord and the nerves. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a common byproduct of aging, but can occur with an injury to the low back area and with certain conditions such as osteoporosis, a condition of bone softening often seen in post-menopausal women.
Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis depend on the area of compression. Common problems include low back pain. Back pain can radiate or travel the length of the nerve, causing symptoms in another area of the body, or it can be experienced with physical activity. Numbness and tingling, and in severe cases, an overall weakness of the leg or loss of bowel and bladder control can also occur.
Recovery Time from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Recovery time for lumbar spinal stenosis varies with severity. Since structural changes in the spinal bones are irreversible, problems with this condition can be life-long. The key to recovery is prevention of further spinal abnormalities and pain management. This can be accomplished through a regular exercise program and the use of proper body mechanics with physical activity. Exacerbations of symptoms should be managed through therapeutic techniques including physical therapy, pain management specialists, and in extreme cases, steroid injections to decrease inflammation of the area and surgical procedures to repair damage.
Recovery Time from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis -- Acute Phase
Since lumbar spinal stenosis generally occurs over time, symptoms typically have a gradual onset. However, an acute bout of lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms can occur with a significant increase in physical activities including prolonged standing or walking. Acute symptoms have a rapid onset and can last from a few days to a few weeks. At this time, inflammation or swelling issues should be addressed with ice, NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and rest.
Recovery Time from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis -- Chronic Phase
Due to the narrowing of the spinal canal, pain and symptoms may become chronic, meaning lasting more than six months. Problems during the chronic phase may be constant or intermittent in nature. Management of chronic lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms should be monitored and treated by a qualified medical professional such as a pain management specialist to optimize pain relief and maximize function.
- The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy; Robert Berkow, MD, Editor-in-Chief; 1987
- Mayo Clinic
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