Spinal Stenosis: Causes and Cures

Spinal Stenosis Causes & Treatment Options

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes a narrowing of your spine’s open spaces. This can cause pressure to be put on your spinal cord as well as the nerves that run through the spine and throughout your arms and legs.

Spinal stenosis may not cause any symptoms for some, while for others they might experience severe pain as well as muscle weakness, numbness, tingling and even bowel or bladder control issues.

What are the symptoms of spinal stenosis?

It is common that until individuals are x-rayed that they might not even be aware of their spinal stenosis. When symptoms do begin to manifest, however, they start very gradually and usually get worse over the long-term. As with many chronic pain conditions, the symptoms will frequently vary and depend upon the stenosis location in thebody.

  • Neck: If an individual is experiencing stenosis in the neck, cervical spine, they will typically experience weakness, numbness or tingling in the hand, arm, foot or leg. This experience of tingling is among the most frequently reported symptoms. Many sufferers also experience difficulty with balance and walking. Incontinence can sometimes be caused by nerves associated with the bowel or bladder becoming compromised.
  • Lower Back: If an individual is experiencing lower back (lumbar spine) stenosis this frequently results in cramping or pain in the legs when individuals are standing for extended periods of time or oftentimes when they are walking.

The 3 best exercises for spinal stenosis

Some people are born with a narrow spinal canal but spinal stenosis has a variety of other causes as well:

  • Bone overgrowth as a result of osteoarthritis can trigger the generation of bone spurs that can grow into the spine’s canal.
  • Ligament thickening is another common cause of spinal stenosis. In this case, the ligaments, which are durable chords that help to bind the spine’s bones together, have become stiff and overly thick as the individual has aged. This causes these ligaments to bulge onto the spinal canal.
  • Spinal injuries as a result of catastrophic or major trauma like a car accident can create fractures or dislocations in the vertebrae. The effect of this is that bones displaced from these accidents or injuries can wreak severe damage to the spinal canal. The swelling associated with injury can place an added pressure on the nerves as well as the spinal cord.
  • Disc herniation is yet another common trigger for spinal stenosis. That soft gel that absorbs shock between the vertebrae will desiccate with age. Some of this gel will oftentimes seep through cracks and impinge on the spinal cord or nerves.

What are the risk factors for developing spinal stenosis?

Most commonly, it is people over the age of 50 that develop Spinal stenosis. When spinal stenosis occurs in younger populations of people it is typically as a result of a genetic disease that has had an effect on the muscle and bone development in the individual’s body.

How is spinal stenosis usually treated?

The treatment of spinal stenosis depends on its location, severity of the pain the individual is experiencing, and other symptoms that a physician must assess.

Medications for spinal stenosis

Generally, doctors will prescribe some of the following medications:

  • Muscle relaxants like Amrix and Fexmid.
  • Antidepressant such as Wellbutrin and Zoloft.
  • Opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Percocet.

Therapy options for spinal stenosis

When people have spinal stenosis they frequently can become less active because of their impaired mobility as a result of the pain that they’re experiencing. Physical therapists are often used when patients experience chronic pain disorders.

They usually have the goal of boosting your endurance and strength, helping you to maintain and increase the stability and flexibility of the spine as well as to improve balance.

Steroid injections for spinal stenosis

Corticosteroid injections into nerve roots that are swollen and aggravated is an effective way of reducing inflammation and potentially relieving spinal pressure. These injections can be hit or miss, sometimes working well for one person and then not working at all for another. Also, most doctors will not provide repeated injections because of the potential that bones and connective tissue will be weakened. So, to the event that steroid injections are effective, if the pain keeps returning after a spell of relief, it is not advisable to keep returning for more and more injections. Surgery may become your next option.

Surgery for spinal stenosis

Surgery is generally only considered for individuals that have gone through treatment courses of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory supplementation, opioid painkillers, and steroid injections. Surgery aims to alleviate pressure that the spinal cord and/or nerve roots are experiencing. Some of the typical surgical interventions for spinal stenosis include:

  1. Laminotomy. This procedure removes part of the back portion of the compromised vertebra called the lamina. The goal here is to remove just enough of it to adequately relieve pressure.
  2. Laminectomy. This procedure will remove the entirety of the back portion of the compromised vertebra. Sometimes spinal fusion is used to help reinforce the spine’s strength and structure.
  3. Laminoplasty. This procedure is conducted exclusively on the neck vertebrae. It is intended to help to open up space within the next spinal canal. A metal hinge is used to help fill the space that is opened.

These space-creating procedures are designed to reduce the painful symptomology of spinal stenosis. While surgery for spinal stenosis is effective for some people, other people symptoms may continue to get worse post-surgery. Typical risks of surgical intervention include infection, membrane tears in the spinal cord’s covering, leg vein blood clots as well as neurological deterioration.

How is spinal stenosis diagnosed?

Spinal stenosis can be a little tricky to diagnose sometimes because its ailments frequently look like common issues that people experience as they age. Because of that, imaging tests are often essential in gathering the needed information to make an accurate diagnosis of spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis typically is diagnosed using x-rays, MRIs, as well as CT myelograms.

What are natural and home remedies for spinal stenosis?

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers like Motrin IB and Aleve.
  • Hot or cold treatments. Applying heat or cold treatments can be effective ways of helping to alleviate pain.
  • Mobility devices like canes or rollator walkers can help improve your stability in the event that you have impaired mobility.
  • Losing weight can help to reduce pressure on the spine.
  • Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods is another alternative remedy that makes sense.
  • Regular exercise that concentrates on avoiding jarring movements that could aggravate the condition will help to maintain flexibility.
  • Functional disc rehydration is an alternative approach to treating stenosis and a variety of other spinal conditions. The way this works is through a series of traction and compression movements designed to rehydrate fluid that has been lost in the vertebrae. Physical therapy is then used as a complement to help stabilize and strengthen the spine. If you are interested in finding out more about functional desk rehydration, try googling for a local provider or asking your physician or physical therapist if they know more about it.
  • It would be best to quit smoking because smoking is believed to contribute to the degeneration of spinal discs.
  • Get plenty of rest. Find a position that helps to create space in your vertebrae- it is likely that this posture or position is a good resting state for you.
  • Investigate natural supplementation. Supplements like glucosamine, MSM, and fish oil are you school for joint lubrication, anti-inflammatory effects, joint health as well as replenishing and repairing damaged cartilage.

Final thoughts on spinal stenosis

If you are experiencing back pain symptoms that resemble spinal stenosis, by all means consult with your local medical professional to receive a diagnosis.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, consider some of the recommendations that we have made in the treatment approaches section of this article. While is difficult to live with this painful condition, there are a variety of alternative treatment options available.

If you decide to have surgery, make sure you have exhausted all possible treatment options before taking this serious step. If you’ve had surgery and it is been a success, that’s great, but make sure that you concentrate on managing a spinal health going forward.

If you concentrate on lifestyle and dietary changes, you will significantly reduce the risk of reactivating your condition. If your surgery has not been successful and you are still experiencing pain, it will be best to utilize an integrative approach in conjunction with your doctors recommendations to develop a holistic intervention that can manage the pain you are likely in.

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