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What is lumber canal stenosis?

Q: I am a 72 years old retired teacher. I have a problem in my spine, the 4th and 5th lumbar vertebrae are not in line. When I walk for a few minutes my legs first start feeling heavy and everything below the right side of the waist goes numb and I cant stand and have to sit down for a minute or so. I can then walk again. I have developed some pain in my right knee as well but after taking a medicine called jointache it has reduced considerably.

A:Your symptoms are very typical of a condition called Lumbar Canal Stenosis. In simple terms, it means that the canal through which your spinal cord and nerves pass is narrowed. So, when you stand and walk the legs become numb and heavy. There are different conditions that cause this but at your age it is usually degeneration that occurs with normal ageing. Taking a CT or MRI of the spine and measuring the spinal canal diameters confirms the diagnosis. These days a number of people prefer MRI as it can also show associated disc prolapse (intervertebral disc is a washer between two vertebral bodies. Our spine is made up of 33 such vertebrae). The treatment for this is exercises for the back and if symptoms do not subside, then surgery to release the narrowing of canal. Do consult an orthopaedic surgeon or a neuro-surgeon to decide this.

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