Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of space in the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Spinal stenosis most often occurs in the lower back, known as lumbar stenosis, or the neck, known as cervical stenosis. Lumbar stenosis involves the spinal nerve roots in the lower back becoming compressed and can result in symptoms of tingling, weakness, or numbness. Cervical stenosis can lead to extreme weakness and is a potential compression of the spinal cord. Normally, the spinal canal has plenty of room for the nerve roots to exit the spine though spinal stenosis constricts this space.
What causes spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis develops slowly and over time. Those aged 50 and older are at a higher risk of experiencing spinal stenosis symptoms. Causes may include bone overgrowth (wear and tear damage), herniated disks, tumors, or spinal injuries that cause fractured vertebrae. Swelling of nearby tissue may also contribute to pressure on the spinal cord. Cervical stenosis may result in symptoms of numbness or tingling, weakness, problems walking, problems keeping balance, and neck pain. Lumbar stenosis may elicit numbness or weakness in the back area along with pain or cramping. It is not uncommon for a person suffering from spinal stenosis to experience no symptoms at all. For others, symptoms may materialize during activities like walking or biking.
When should I seek treatment for spinal stenosis?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis or have pain in your back or neck, it’s a good idea to seek out treatment. Treatment options will depend on your medical history, duration of symptoms, and the severity of the condition. Physical therapy is a good option for those with spinal stenosis who have become less active in order to reduce pain symptoms. Unfortunately, this inactivity causes muscles to further weaken and can result in even more pain.
How can physical therapy help with spinal stenosis?
Your physical therapist will conduct a full body assessment to pinpoint the source of your pain and to go over injury history. They’ll work with you to build a plan of care that is unique to your body and individual goals, factoring in any activities in which you regularly participate. They’ll go through a treatment process designed to reduce your pain symptoms, improve your overall function, and strengthen areas of the body that may be contributing to your pain. They may also include techniques such as:
• Manual therapy to restore pain-free, functional movements in the neck or back and remove mobility restrictions.
• Postural education to modify daily behaviors while sitting, standing, and lying down, that may be causing strain on the spine.
• Strengthening exercises to improve the function of weak muscles surrounding the spine including flexion exercises that involve the back in a rounded position.
• Home exercise program to help prevent the progression of spinal stenosis symptoms.
Your physical therapist can provide the necessary tools to treat symptoms of spinal stenosis, allowing you to return to your favorite activities pain-free and stronger than ever! To learn more about spinal stenosis or to eliminate any discomfort, book a physical therapy assessment today.
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“Dealing with neck pain can be rough but from the minute I walked in, I had a good feeling about Therapydia. My physical therapist has been knowledgeable, thoughtful, and extremely attentive to every pain I brought up. After only five weeks, I already feel more improvement than I made in the last two years.”