Lumbar Degenerative Problems and Stenosis
Degenerative changes of the low back resemble arthritis, with thickening of soft-tissues and bone spur formation. Bulky ligaments and bone spurs encroach upon the canals containing the nerves within the spine of the low back, causing nerve compression and pain. The degenerative changes may themselves cause back pain, whilst the nerve compression gives pain in one or both legs (sciatica). This pain may be associated with weakness and numbness in the legs or feet. In some people the leg symptoms are worse when walking. Symptoms of degeneration of the spine may build up slowly or start suddenly. Often, they will settle with altered activity, physiotherapy, exercises and medication. Sometimes a cortisone injection is useful.
Surgery is used when pain is persistent or there are severe problems with walking. Surgery for this condition will vary according to the details of the problem seen on scans and can range from relatively minor to very major procedures. The general aim of surgery is to remove bone and ligaments that are pressing on the nerves and is often called laminectomy. Sometimes fusion is also required to halt slippage of one vertebra on another due to loss of strength of the discs. Hospital stay after this kind of surgery is from 3 to 7 days. In some cases, rehabilitation is required for up to another 2 weeks, before returning home.