What Is Spinal Stenosis?
The spinal column is made up of vertebrae, and it gives your body its structure. The main role of the vertebrae is to protect your spinal cord. The spinal cord is made up of nerves, and these nerves carry the signals that your brain and other parts of your body send to each other. The spinal cord passes through the opening that exists in each vertebra and also passes through spaces that exist between the vertebrae. When narrowing occurs within these spaces, this is called spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis pain can cause inflammation, pinching, or pressure.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
Degeneration is the main cause of spinal stenosis. Over the years, you experience wear and tear that occurs just because time is passing or because you have osteoarthritis. It also occurs because the space that populates the nerves becomes obstructed. This happens when your ligaments begin to enlarge, or you develop bone spurs. These issues decrease the amount of space between the vertebrae and the spinal cord, and they keep the nerves from moving as they normally do.
In addition to the causes listed above, you may develop spinal stenosis if you contract an inflammatory disorder, an infection, or an injury.
The Two Types of Spinal Stenosis
There are two types of spinal stenosis to be aware of. They are cervical spinal stenosis and lumbar stenosis.
Cervical spinal stenosis occurs when you experience narrowing in the vertebrae in your neck.
Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when narrowing occurs in your lower back. It is the most common type of spinal stenosis.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis include the following:
- Pain in the neck.
- Difficulties maintaining balance or walking.
- Leg, foot, hand, or arm weakness.
- Leg, foot, hand, or arm tingling or numbness.
- When the case is severe, your bowels or bladder may not function properly. Specifically, you may have urinary urgency or incontinence.
The symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include the following:
- Pain in your back.
- Cramping or pain in one leg or both after you have been standing for long periods of time or while walking. This pain tends to be relieved when you lean forward or take a seat.
- One foot or one leg is weak.
- One foot or one leg experiences tingling or numbness.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be living with spinal stenosis.
Is There a Way to Lower My Risk of Developing Spinal Stenosis?
Sometimes, spinal stenosis is caused by osteoarthritis of the spine. This tends to occur after you reach the age of 50. If this is the case for you, it wouldn’t be possible to prevent spinal stenosis that is due to osteoarthritis because you develop osteoarthritis after several years of wear and tear on your bodily structures.
Although you may not be able to prevent spinal stenosis, you can take action to ensure that you have a healthy spine.
The following actions may lower your risk of spinal stenosis:
- Begin Exercising.
Exercise is great for your entire body as well as your general physical and mental health, but it’s also great for your spine. You don’t have to join a gym if you are determined not to. You can engage in physical activity anywhere that allows your body to move. Just make sure that the activity you choose is tailored specifically for your health needs.
- Increase Your Flexibility by Stretching.
Low back pain and mid back pain are symptoms of spinal stenosis, and they are the cause of a decreased range of motion. As your range of motion continues to decrease, it increases stiffness. This ends up being a vicious cycle that you cannot get out of and tends to get worse as time goes by.
You can relieve your stiffness by stretching and engaging in flexibility training. Practicing yoga is an excellent way to begin stretching, but you can find other exercises that are based on stretching that will help as well. Flexibility training and stretching can relieve the pain you are experiencing from spinal stenosis, but it also improves flexibility, and this increases your mobility.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight.
When you are overweight, it places an extra amount of pressure on your joints and other parts of your body. This increases the likelihood that you will contract diseases, but it also increases the likelihood that you will develop spinal stenosis. If your body is carrying extra pounds, the amount of wear and tear that your body would ordinarily experience increases. Therefore, if you maintain a healthy weight, you will lower the risk of developing spinal stenosis.
- Maintain Good Posture.
Choose furniture that promotes good posture. For example, select a firm mattress and choose chairs that support your back’s natural curves. Lastly, make a point of learning how to lift heavy objects correctly so that you aren’t suffering any injuries to the back.
The Best Way to Alleviate Spinal Stenosis at Home.
Conservative treatment options include the following:
- Physical Therapy
When people have spinal stenosis, they often move as little as possible because they want to avoid pain. When they do this, they aren’t using their muscles as often, and they gradually become weaker. This weakness causes even more pain. A better plan is to meet with a physical therapist. A physical therapist will teach you exercises that will improve your balance, help you maintain the stability and flexibility of your spine, and improve your endurance and strength.
- Chiropractic Treatment
The chiropractor performs spinal manipulations with his or her hands. It is a form of alternative treatment. According to chiropractic theory, the body will heal itself after its musculoskeletal structure is properly aligned.
- Activity Modification
Along with adding an exercise regimen to your day, you can also make dietary changes that can aid in improving spinal stenosis.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications
In the beginning, physicians treat spinal stenosis with non-surgical methods. One option is to choose non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Examples of NSAIDs are aspirin, Advil, or Aleve. These are temporary pain relievers and are not recommended for long-term use.
If the above options do not relieve your pain, it may be time to seek alternate treatment options.
Let Dr. Alexander Help
Spinal stenosis pain can impact your day-to-day life. If you’re experiencing mild to severe discomfort, it’s time to take the first step to achieve pain relief. Dr. Gerald Alexander specializes in the treatment of spinal stenosis. He will begin with non-surgical methods and move up to the surgical methods if non-surgical methods fail to work. If you are searching for an experienced specialist for your chronic back pain, make an appointment with Dr. Alexander today.