There are several conditions that stem from spinal complications and spinal stenosis is one of the most common among them. It’s a kind of condition that affects your lower back, also known as the lumbar region and the neck in the cervical area. This spinal problem is found more in people aged 50 and above. This indicates that it could be a condition that occurs with age, which is partially right, but it can also stem from various underlying factors.
Before we jump into the causes of spinal stenosis let’s try to enhance our understanding of this condition.
A Brief Description of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal Stenosis can be best defined as a problem that leads to the narrowing of the spinal canal, which eventually puts undue pressure on the spinal cord. In layman’s terms, it a condition due to which the spaces within the spine starts narrowing, which leads to pain and discomfort in the lower back and neck.
Since the symptoms of this condition start appearing lowly and worsen with the passage of time, therefore it becomes hard to figure out whether the pain that you are having in your back or neck is because of it or something else. In short, without consulting a doctor, you can’t figure out what exactly is causing pain in your lower back and neck.
According to NCBI, they deal with over 200,000 cases of spinal stenosis each year in the United States, which is actually a huge figure. But as you should always look at the bright side of everything, the same applies to this condition as well. So the good thing is that it’s a treatable condition. Yes, there are several treatment options that you can choose from to deal with this condition effectively.
Although the majority of people that are diagnosed with spinal stenosis are above the age of 50, there are also those who are born with its congenital form.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
This spinal condition is mainly divided into two important parts where are described below.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition that affects your neck. It eventually means that narrowing of the spine takes place near the neck. It’s associated with spinal cord compression called myelopathy, which can lead to an extremely debilitating situation in the worst-case scenario.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
It is a type of spinal stenosis wherein the spinal narrowing occurs in the lumbar region or lower back. Patients struggling with this condition find their symptoms worsening as they engage in physical activities.
Here are the signs and symptoms of spinal stenosis
- People struggling with this condition often experience frequent episodes of back pain
- Back pain varies from severe to mild, and there are times when it eliminates completely
- Spinal stenosis patients often experience Sciatica like symptoms, means they experience pain that originates in the lower back and then spreads to buttocks and legs
- The pain in the arms and hands in the case of cervical spinal stenosis
- The intensity of the pain increases as you engage in physical activities like running, playing Soccer, and riding a bike.
- Some people find relief from pain while sitting and lying down
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
There are several underlying causes of spinal stenosis and some of them are given below
Aging is one of the most important reasons that lead to spinal stenosis. Yes, as you age, your spine starts damaging naturally if you fail to take care of it properly. In layman’s terms, with the passage of time, your spine experiences general wear and tear that lead to spinal stenosis.
Another important reason for the occurrence of spinal stenosis is arthritis, a condition that is best defined as the inflammation of joints. When a person suffers from arthritis, their cartilage, a protective tissue that safeguards the bones in the joints starts damaging, which lead to huge pain and discomfort.
A bone spur can also contribute to this condition. A bone spur is nothing but the outgrowth of a bone which generally happens due to local inflammation. Osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common forms of arthritis remains the primary cause of bone spur.
Ligaments which are accountable for keeping the bones in your spine intact can become thick with the passage of time, which then lead to Spinal Stenosis.
Tumor & Spinal Injuries
Spinal stenosis can also occur due to spinal tumor and injuries. Spinal tumors are nothing but the abnormal growths inside the membranes that are accountable for covering the spinal cord.
In addition to that, spinal injuries that can occur while playing a sport or due to an auto accident can also lead to this condition.
Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
There are several types of treatment options that one can choose from for treating spinal stenosis. But according to experts, physical therapy is one of the best ways to deal with this condition. Apart from physical therapy one can either opt for anti-inflammatory medications and injections or surgery.
Physical Therapy for Spinal Stenosis
As we have already discussed that this condition can occur due to various underlying factor, so the first thing that a physical therapist does when a patient struggling from spinal stenosis approaches them is they try to find out what exactly is its root cause.
Once the primary source of the problem is identified, then they customize a treatment plan that incorporates different types of techniques to address the signs and symptoms of your condition.
According to BodyGears Physical Therapy, “Physical therapy can have a very positive effect on patients with spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis. While our therapists cannot revert your arthritis degeneration, we can restore more natural movement to the spinal joints, improve flexibility to increase joint fluid circulation, improve spinal muscle strength and educate you on correct posture and prevention techniques.”
Your physical therapist will include a lot of important exercises in your care plan which will help in enhancing muscle strength and flexibility. And increased muscle strength and flexibility help in reducing the pain.
In addition to that, they may also include physical therapy techniques like manual therapy in your treatment plan to seek quick recovery.