Vice President Dick Cheney just had back surgery. While his latest health issue made it into USA Today, he has a condition that many older adult have, lumbar spinal stenosis. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing inside the spinal canal that causes pressure on spinal nerves, most often a result of age, gravity and the inevitable degeneration of the spine.

While Mr. Cheney may have lumbar spinal stenosis, it is not, as his spokeswoman states in the article, “a common cause of lower back pain.” Lumbar spinal stenosis does not cause back pain. If Dick Cheney had surgery to address lumbar spinal stenosis, his symptoms were most likely, radiating pain, leg fatigue and heaviness, burning, numbness and/or tingling. But not pain in his back. You can learn more about spinal stenosis by reading this article or watching my recent lecture on the topic.

There is a widespread misunderstanding about back pain and the role of surgery. With rare exception, having pain in your back rarely warrants back surgery. Surgery just won’t fix the problem. There are effective treatments for back pain, including drug therapy, physical therapy, weight loss, lifestyle changes, even massage therapy.

If like Dick Cheney, you have lumbar spinal stenosis that is causing numbness, fatigue or a burning sensation, surgery can be a very effective treatment. Want to know your options? Have your back condition evaluated by a board certified neurosurgeon. David C. Leppla, MD.

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