Nerve compression transcends physical strength to immobilize the most powerful patients. How can you differentiate stenosis and resume normal activities?
Publish 11 November 2021
Spinal Stenosis Popularity
Your research of possible back pain causes may lead you to the condition “spinal stenosis.” Yes, it is a well known condition that affects 47% of individuals above the age of 60 years. But it can also put the squeeze on younger people.
Spinal stenosis affects up to 14% of individuals between the ages of 40–60 years. If related to deformities of the spine at birth, an individual could suffer from this condition even in childhood.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the bony spinal openings, causing the spine or its nerves to compress. The compression (stenosis) can occur in the spinal canal where the spinal cord runs. Or it could occur in intervertebral foramina, through which spinal innervation leads to muscles and organs of the body.
Symptoms vary according to the degree and the level of compression. Most commonly, stenosis occurs in the cervical or lumbar spine. These are the neck and the lower back regions. But as the nerves that come out of these regions travel throughout the body, the symptoms may appear at distant sites.
Variable signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis may include:
- Pain – Characteristics of pain differ among individuals. Some may find a dull or an electric-like pain while others may feel more like a pins-and-needles sensation. The pain is mostly radiating to distant sites depending on the level of spine affected. If the cervical spine is affected the pain may start at the neck and radiate to the hands. When the lumbar spine is affected the pain may arise in the lower back and extend to the legs.
- Numbness – While pain is common, some individuals may also feel numbness in the affected area and distant sites.
- Weakness – Due to the affect on the spinal cord and nerves the muscles may weaken in the long term. Therefore, reduced strength and coordination can also be symptoms of this condition. If the lowest part of the spinal cord is affected, it may even lead to incontinence.
If you, or an individual you know, suffers from any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical help. Trying to treat spinal stenosis by yourself can worsen the condition. Keep in mind that standing or sitting for long periods worsens the pain. Make sure you take regular breaks from your constant posture and mobilize your spine to prevent worsening of the condition.
Physicians highly recommend special exercises that keep your lower back moving for mild and early lumbar stenosis. Physiotherapy can help in reducing the pain, strengthening muscles and improving the symptoms. Physiotherapists use different approaches. Based on health factors and best outcomes, a physiotherapist creates a personalized treatment plan for each patient.
To ensure spinal mobility, physiotherapy includes supplemental treatments such as water therapy, electrotherapy, manual therapy, cycling and postural exercises. Heat therapy during sessions can reduce muscle spasms and relieve pain.
Some physiotherapists suggest using acupuncture to help reduce pain and numbness. Other treatments are ultrasound and mega pulse.
If the symptoms are severe and have been there for a long period, pain medications and surgical treatment might be necessary. At any degree of the condition, physiotherapy is a part of treatment or as a method of rehabilitation. The duration of visits depends on the severity and also on the involvement of the affected individual.
All physiotherapy treatments also involve patient education regarding the condition and preventive measures. Once the patient completes treatment, the physiotherapist advises that certain exercises continue. This assures an active life with the correct posture.
Back pain can be daunting and can limit your physical functions. Although we cannot stop aging and degeneration of the spine and bones, we can surely postpone them by living a healthy life. Do not underestimate the importance of correct posture and active living.
UPDATED: OCT 27, 2022