Neurogenic claudication is the medical term used to describe the symptom of pain induced by walking, as claudication comes from the Latin “claudico,” or to limp. This symptom can often be confused with the similar vascular claudication, but understanding the differences in these two symptoms can help better pinpoint a diagnosis of lower back and leg pain. Here, we’ll discuss the differences between these two symptoms and the disorder that neurogenic claudication is a hallmark of, lumbar stenosis.
Neurogenic versus Vascular Claudication
Put simply, neurogenic claudication is caused by damage to the neurological system, namely the spinal cord and nerves, while vascular claudication, or pain in the legs while walking, is caused by insufficient blood flow.
While the differences in these two symptoms are subtle, a closer look can help determine which case a patient is suffering. While neurogenic claudication can appear after varying amounts of exercise as well as while standing or even coughing, vascular claudication can start predictably after a fixed amount of exercise and is rarely produced at rest.
Another major difference between the two is how relief from the pain can be achieved. With neurogenic claudication, relieving the pain can be slow and variable and further helped by sitting or stooping. Achieving relief by simply standing is rarely achieved and can even aggravate the pain. On the other hand, vascular claudication can often be relieved by simply standing in place, often very quickly.
Lumbar Stenosis and Neurogenic Claudication
Neurogenic claudication is a hallmark symptom of lumbar stenosis, a condition in which the column of the spinal cord or the canals that protect the nerve roots narrows at the lower back. This narrowing can also occur in the spaces between the vertebrae where the nerves leave the spine to travel to other parts of the body.
While there are a number of inherited or acquired disorders that can cause this narrowing, the majority of people suffering from lumbar stenosis are over sixty years of age, as it can be the result of simply growing older. The ligaments of the spine and can calcify and thicken with age, as well as the bones and joints.
The intervertebral discs, which are found between each of the vertebrae, can lose their water, which helps them work as cushions or shock absorbers between the vertebrae, which can put pressure on nerves and their roots. The reason sitting and stooping can both help relieve the pain of neurogenic claudication is that the action of sitting stretches the spine, forcing the spaces between the vertebrae to open up, thus taking off some of the pressure from the nerves and their roots.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Neurogenic Claudication
If you suspect that you are suffering from Neurogenic Claudication, the best course of action is to visit your doctor so he can perform a physical examination. In combination with your medical history and possible further tests, such as a CT scan or an MRI, a diagnosis can be easily made.
Treatments will vary depending of the severity of the disorder, but can range from simple anti-inflammatory medications to surgery to help relieve the pressure.