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Lumbar Spinal Stenosis


Lumbar spinal stenosis

is narrowing of the spinal canal in your lower back. Your spinal canal is the opening in your spine that contains your spinal cord. When your spinal canal narrows, it may put pressure on your spinal cord and nerves.

Common signs and symptoms:

Signs and symptoms may start or get worse when you stand or walk. They are often relieved when you sit or lean forward.

  • Low back pain
  • Pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in one or both legs
  • Pain in your buttocks that extends to your thighs or legs

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have pain in your leg that does not go away or gets worse.
  • You have trouble moving your legs.
  • You cannot control when you urinate or have a bowel movement.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • Your symptoms keep you from doing your daily activities.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • A steroid injection may be given to reduce inflammation. Steroid medicine is injected into the epidural space. The epidural space is between your spinal cord and vertebrae.
  • A nerve block is an injection of numbing medicine. You may need a nerve block if your pain is not going away, or is getting worse.
  • Surgery may be needed to widen your spinal canal or decrease pressure on your spinal cord. Surgery may also be done to fix damaged or injured vertebrae in your back.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Go to physical and occupational therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.
  • Rest when you feel it is needed. Slowly start to do more each day. Return to your daily activities as directed.
  • Apply heat on your back for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Apply ice on your back for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Lumbar Spinal Stenosis (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.