A person suffering from Spinal Stenosis can experience a range of symptoms, the most debilitating being severe back pain. If left untreated, Spinal Stenosis can become a very serious condition and result in permanent damage to the spine.
In this article, we will discuss what is Spinal Stenosis, Its symptoms, its cause, and the possible treatments a person can take to help alleviate the pain. Don’t let Spinal Stenosis impair your quality of life, and consider the options below to take immediate action.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal Stenosis is a condition that occurs when there is a lack of space inside the backbone, placing pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that run down the spine. It is most common in the lower back and in the neck.
What causes Spinal Stenosis?
The most common cause of Spinal Stenosis is aging, and general wear & tear that is often caused by arthritis.
Arthritis is not the only cause of Spinal Stenosis, and people aged under 50 can develop the condition, especially if they suffer from conditions such as scoliosis or live with other spinal issues.
Let’s take a look at some of the other causes of Spinal Stenosis.
- Bone Spurs – Stemming from arthritis and Paget’s disease, a bone spur is an extra bone that grows on the spine. This bone can then push against the spinal canal, causing pain.
- A Small Spinal Canal – The spinal canal is the space where the spinal cord runs through, surrounded by protective vertebrae. In some cases, a person can be born with a small spinal canal.
- Herniated Discs – Discs refer to the soft cushions of tissue that help to protect the vertebrae, technically acting as natural shock absorbers. Over time, this tissue can lose its moisture, meaning the discs can slip out of place and come into contact with the spinal cord or nerves.
- Spinal Injuries – Spinal injuries, such as those caused by a car accident can also lead to Spinal Stenosis. Major trauma in the spine can cause vertebrae to break or shift out of place.
- Surgery – Back surgery can leave swelling around the spine which can press against nerves.
- Enlarged Ligaments – Ligaments hold the bones that make up the spine together, however, as a person grows older, these ligaments can thicken and stiffen. As a result of this, the ligaments can then push into the spinal canal.
- Tumors – A rare cause of Spinal Stenosis is a tumor forming inside the spinal canal.
What are the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Not everyone who has Spinal Stenosis experiences symptoms, whereas others are subjected to pain, tingling sensations, numbness, weakness, and more. Over time, these symptoms are likely to worsen if left untreated, maybe even requiring surgery.
Below is a list of the symptoms you could encounter if you have Spinal Stenosis.
- Lower back pain.
- Neck pain.
- Cramping in one or both legs, exacerbated by standing or walking for long periods of time.
- A tingling sensation and/ or weakness in the hands, arms, legs, or feet.
- Bowel or bladder issues
Modern and Effective Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
Treatments for Spinal Stenosis can vary, with different methods yielding different results, depending on the case or person. We have compiled a list of modern and effective treatments for Spinal Stenosis for you to consider and consult with your doctor about.
Strength and mobility exercises
There are exercises that have been proven to help with spinal stenosis, to stabilize the back, relieve pain, and maintain mobility. Many of these exercises are simple and can be performed at home.
These exercises can include:
Pelvic Tilts – Engage your transverse abdominis with a pelvic tilt, helping to align your spinal column and strengthening your lower back.
Bridges – Bridges work on your glutes, which in turn, strengthens your pelvis and reduces strain on your spine.
Knee-to-Chest Exercise – This simple exercise helps to stretch your lower back muscles, reducing tension and flexing the spine to enable mobility. This can temporarily create more space in the spinal canal, offering short-term pain relief.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help lessen or cure the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis.
- Physiotherapy can help relieve pressure on the spinal cord by stretching your lower back and body.
- Your physio will also conduct strengthening exercises for your abdominal muscles which provides added support to your spine.
- Mobility exercises can help increase your back’s range of motion.
- Physical therapy is proven to help reduce pain, tension, and inflammation using a range of specialist treatments. These spinal stenosis treatment options can include massages, heat & cold therapies, and electrostimulation.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter medication or may prescribe you medication that is stronger or dedicated to back pain. As ever, you should always discuss your options carefully, and ensure your doctor has a full understanding of your condition and symptoms.
Options if Spinal Stenosis Treatment doesn’t work
Severe cases may result in surgery being recommended by your doctor. Surgery can help create additional space inside your spine to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. However, this will not cure arthritis, so there is a chance that the back pain may return.
Surgery is only usually recommended if a patient has undergone six months of treatment with no obvious results.
- Spinal Decompression Surgery – For Spinal Stenosis, spinal decompression surgery is the most commonly performed procedure. This involves removing parts of the vertebrae that are pressing against the nerves or spinal cord. This results in pain relief and allows the impacted area to heal.
A laminectomy is the most common form of spinal decompression surgery for Spinal Stenosis, removing part of or all of the lamina, which is an outer layer in the spinal canal.
- Spinal Fusion Surgery – Spinal fusion is usually performed after spinal decompression surgery to provide more support to the spinal column. This operation involves a bone graft being attached to the vertebrae that have had the lamina removed. This is done using rods and screws, permanently fusing the vertebrae together.
Unfortunately, this type of operation can reduce mobility in the back, making a range of motions difficult to perform. In addition, adjacent vertebrae may also be subject to some deterioration.
- Pemia Spine TOPS Systems – A modern alternative to spinal decompression and spinal fusion is a TOPS System. This system is a non-fusion implant that maintains mobility in the back, while also being clinically proven to reduce pain.
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