Do you experience low back pain when you try to stand up? Do you find it difficult to walk even short distances before you have to sit down and rest because it hurts too much? If so, then you could be suffering from a condition called spinal stenosis.
What is spinal stenosis?
A common cause of low back and/or sciatica pain, spinal stenosis is a condition whereby the spaces where the spinal nerves travel through become smaller and smaller and start to close off. Eventually, the space is so narrow it begins to pinch the spinal cord and puts pressure on the root of the spinal nerve. The result is a compressed, or pinched nerve, which causes pain, tingling, or numbness.
What are the signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis?
The nerve compression caused by spinal stenosis can lead to many symptoms, not only around the neck and back but also in the arms and legs. Symptoms such as traveling pains like sciatica, numbness, tingling, cramping, muscle spasms, and general weakness, are common. In severe cases, incontinence or paralysis can also occur.
People who suffer from spinal stenosis experience pain when they try to stand up, especially after sitting for a long time. Other signs may include weakness when walking—in particular when going up or down a hill, ramp, or stairs. It can be difficult for people with spinal stenosis to shop at stores without the aid of a shopping cart to lean on when they walk.
What causes spinal stenosis?
Probably the most significant cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis—wear and tear from repetitive injuries and stresses on the neck and back. Osteoarthritis comes from the breakdown of cartilage between weight bearing joints. Osteoarthritis can cause osteophytes, or bone spurs; this can further narrow the space in the spine and compress the spinal cord or spinal nerve.
Other causes of spinal stenosis include poor posture, disc herniation or bulges, tumors or cysts, and an inappropriately treated injury to the spine. Spinal stenosis is more common in people over 50 as osteoarthritis and bone spurs tend to develop over a person’s lifetime.
People who have sedentary lifestyles and sit for most of their day are at risk for osteopenia; if left untreated can lead to increased risk of osteoarthritis and stenosis.
What are the treatment options for spinal stenosis?
If disc degeneration or herniation is the underlying cause of the spinal stenosis, non-surgical decompression provided by a physical therapist can have an extremely high success rate among patients. The treatment involves applying specific, gentle traction to the damaged areas of the spine.
The traction causes a gentle stretching of the spine and helps open up areas that have become closed off, which in turn relieves pressure on the pinched nerves. Once this pressure has been removed from the surrounding nerves, the pain and symptoms caused by spinal stenosis begin to diminish.
Physical therapy will also help clients to strengthen their spine so they will become more mobile and be able to tolerate more stress on their body without increased back pain.
Another treatment option for spinal stenosis is MPS (microcurrent point stimulation) therapy. MPS therapy utilizes a device on the body to relax muscles, calm the nervous system and release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. It has been shown in studies that MPS therapy is more effective for pain relief when compared to acupuncture, TENS units and massage.
We can help
If you've been experiencing any back pain with numbness or tingling down your limbs there's a strong possibility you're the victim of spinal stenosis. Call us today at (281) 888-0047 for a free phone consultation or office discovery visit where you can learn how we can help you return to life without back pain.
If you’d like some easy tips you can use right now to start easing your back pain, click the link to download my free back pain guide: https://www.nextlevelpthouston.com/back-pain.html
Dr. Jack Wong
Leading Physical Therapist In The Houston Area