Lower Back Achy Pain & Leg Weakness with Burning Pain – Spinal Canal Stenosis
A common cause of lower back and leg pain amongst older adults is a condition known as Spinal Canal stenosis. It occurs due to narrowing of the spinal canal and vertebra foramina that house the spinal cord and spinal nerves which supply muscle control and sensation to the lower body. Narrowing of the spinal canal and the vertebra foramina leads to impingement on the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots that branch from the spinal cord causing lower back pain accompanied by leg pain and weakness. Pain with walking and standing are common features of spinal Canal Stenosis.
Causes of Spinal Canal Stenosis:
Arthritic changes in the lumbar spine leading to nerve root compression
Calcification or hardening of the spinal ligaments
Formation of bony spurs within the spinal foramina
Paget’s disease of the bones
Tumours of the spine
Conditions since birth such as Scoliosis (lateral curvature) of the spine
Signs & Symptoms
Described as a weakness, a burning, numbing or tingling pain (not a cramping type pain!)
Affects people over 50 years old with a long history of backache
Pain into the lower back that radiates into the buttocks and lower leg
Pain is worsened when walking and standing for prolonged periods
Relief is achieved by lying down, sitting or bending forward
Bowel and Bladder symptoms such as inability to control bowel movement can be present
Lower back pain & leg pain is aggravated when extending the lower spine backwards
Management & Treatment
The diagnosis of Spinal Canal Stenosis is confirmed by x-ray or MRI images of the lumbar spine. Such images will highlight narrowing of the space surrounding the spinal cord in the spinal canal and areas where the nerve root may be compressed. Treatment of the condition is dependent on the severity of the symptoms. Severe symptoms may require surgery on the spine to remove bony spurs that are causing nerve restriction within the spinal canal. Epidural injections to the area surrounding the spinal are another treatment option often used by Neurosurgeons. If the symptoms are of a mild scale then physical therapy of the lumbar spine that involves increasing space between restricted vertebras of lower spine may help relieve symptoms. Such treatment techniques may include traction and flexion distraction mobilizations.
Tomás Ryan is a Registered Physical Therapist (MIAPT) with The Irish Association of Physical Therapy and is based in Clonmel & Thurles.
Contact Number: 0504 26672
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