What are the treatment options for lumbar canal stenosis?

Since the aging of the spine is a natural and irreversible process, non-operative treatment options are aimed at removing pressure from the nerves to allow them to function more normally. Removing pressure from the nerves, in turn, will help relieve the pain associated with lumbar canal stenosis. Non-operative treatment options include physical therapy, medicine, and pain therapy.

  • Physical therapy: Physical therapists can work with you to develop an appropriate exercise program. The exercises prescribed by your therapist can help relieve pressure from your nerves, reducing the symptoms of pain and weakness.
  • Medicines: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) or pain-relieving medicines (analgesics) might be prescribed to decrease pain and increase your activity level. These medicines might be taken as pills, patches, topical cream/ointment or injections. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, might be effective as well.
  • Pain therapy: An injection of a cortisone-like medicine into the lower back might help reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerve roots. These injections are sometimes called epidural or nerve blocks.

When is surgery necessary?

A surgical procedure called a laminectomy is used treat lumbar canal stenosis for people who have progressive symptoms that could cause serious damage. Surgery also might be prescribed to treat people who have persistent symptoms, despite medical treatment. During a laminectomy, the central tunnels of the vertebrae are opened and nerve pressure is relieved.

A newer surgical procedure involves the placement of a bullet-shaped metal spacer (x-stop) between vertebral spinous processes, mechanically optimizing the diameter of the spinal canal.

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