If you are constantly suffering from lower back pain that radiates to your legs, it is possible that you may have a medical condition called spinal stenosis. This condition affects the spinal cords and nerve roots because of the narrowing of your spinal canal.
Often, the narrowing occurs in the lumbar spine or your lower back. It can also happen to the neck or the cervical spine. However, there are rare occasions where it can also happen in the upper back or the spine’s thoracic region. The common symptoms are numbness, weakness, or pain in various regions of the spine, depending on the part where the spinal canal narrowed.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
For most cases, this medical condition is congenital. Some people are just born with a spinal canal that is already narrow. However, there are also cases where spinal stenosis is a result of the spine undergoing degenerative changes such as osteoarthritis.
Some of the things that also contribute to spinal stenosis are bulging discs, back ligament thickening, and bony overgrowth caused by osteoarthritis. For those who are fifty years old and above, spinal stenosis can emerge as an issue.
There are also other medical conditions that can result in spinal stenosis. This includes Paget’s disease, trauma, spinal tumors, and inflammatory spondyloarthritis. The risk is also high for those who have had an injury in the spine or surgery.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
The common symptoms of those who have spinal stenosis of the lumbar region include lower back and leg pain after walking. But the pain goes away when you lean over or when you sit down. For those who have the condition on the neck area, then the pain is felt on the neck with strange sensations being felt in your arms. Leg function is also poor. You may also suffer from incontinence.
Some other symptoms include leg cramping, weakness, and numbness. Sexual, bladder, and bowel functions can be affected as well. Worse cases of spinal stenosis can include paralysis of the legs. What’s interesting with this condition is that not all of those who have a narrowed spinal canal suffer from the symptoms. Therefore, the condition refers to those who have the symptoms and not just the spinal canal narrowing.
Treating Spinal Stenosis with Exercise
Having spinal stenosis is painful, and you may be wondering why exercise is among the best treatments for this condition. In general, exercise is good for one’s overall health. You don’t have to do strenuous exercises immediately. Simple stretching activities alone will suffice.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, keep in mind to start slow; just a short period each day. When your body has become used to moving about, you can try doing half-hour exercises for thrice a week. In cases where simple movements are really painful, you can start in the pool. It will be easier to move because of the water’s buoyancy.
Once you can exercise more regularly, you will begin to notice that you have more control over your balance and you are more flexible. You will have an easier time moving around. Exercise can address your spinal stenosis, improve your health physically, as well as help your self-confidence and well-being.
Surgical Options for Spinal Stenosis
If you’ve tried all kinds of exercise to help alleviate the pain and other symptoms of spinal stenosis, and still, nothing worked, there are also surgical options that you can discuss with your doctor. Here are some of them:
In this procedure, the surgeon will be making an incision. This is to be able to access the spine and remove any ligaments or bone spurs that may be affecting the nerves. This allows more space for the spinal cord.
This kind of surgery is for cases where a part of the disk compresses the spinal nerves. The surgeon makes an incision and then removes any part of the disk that is causing the spinal stenosis.
With this surgery, at least two bones are locked so that they won’t move and are made stable. A bone graft or metal hardware is utilized for this procedure. After the surgery, you may find it difficult to bend. You will be advised to rest for several days after the surgery.
The surgeries do not offer a hundred percent cure to the problem. It is possible for the symptoms of spinal stenosis to return. Also, just like with any type of surgery, there are risks involved. Some of these include nerve root injury, blood clots, and infection.
After the surgery, the doctor will most likely recommend that you enroll in a physical therapy program. With the right kind of exercise regimen, you will be able to be more flexible and strong eventually.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of spinal stenosis and have any questions about the condition or the treatments available, feel free to ask us. Simply post your question in the comments section or contact us so that we can provide you with more information that can help you in dealing with the symptoms of spinal stenosis.
Dr. Tymothy L. Flory graduated from Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis, Missouri. Before opening Atlas Brain Spine, Dr. Flory practiced Upper Cervical Chiropractic in Seattle, Washington. Dr. Flory completed Board Certification of the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association in 2012 and is currently a Credentialed Instructor for the organization.