Spinal claudication is heaviness, numbness or pain in the buttocks and legs that comes on with walking and is relieved by sitting down. Typically, walking is limited to a distance of about 100 metres because of leg pain, which is relieved by sitting for a few minutes and then walking to the same distance again. Spinal claudication is caused by degeneration of the lumbar spine with narrowing of the central spinal canal so that the spinal nerves are squeezed tight. Spinal movements associated with standing and walking further squeeze the nerves and generate symptoms; whereas sitting or bending forward opens the canal and relieves leg pain.
Spinal claudication develops slowly over time and early treatment may include weight loss and maintaining exercise, such as hydrotherapy or on the exercise cycle. Anti-inflammatory medications may also help. Spinal cortisone injections are usually of temporary help only.
Surgery is recommended when claudication is persistent and disabling. Procedures may vary from simple decompressions to more complex fusions, depending on the underlying condition found on scans. Stay in hospital is from two to several nights.