Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pressure on the spinal cord where spinal nerves leave the spinal column. Depending on affected nerves, spinal stenosis can cause numbness or pain in the back, neck, legs, arms or shoulders. Spinal stenosis usually develops as a person ages (generally starting at about 40 and older). The spinal disc begins to shrink and become drier while bones and ligaments are swelling and growing as a result of inflammation and arthritis. It can also develop in the cervical and lumbar areas of the spine. Other causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Imperfections in the development of the segments of the spine
- Thickened ligaments
- Herniated of slipped disk
- Birth defects in the spine
- Tumors in the spine
- Injury that may have caused pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root
- Achondroplasia, Paget’s disease or other bone disease
The tricky issue with spinal stenosis is that often times there are no signs or symptoms. Spinal stenosis is usually discovered after x-rays. With spinal stenosis affecting various areas including the back and the neck the symptoms may vary. With spinal stenosis in the lower back compressed nerves in the lumbar spine can cause a cramping or pain the legs after standing or walking for long periods. Bending or sitting often offers pain relief for these symptoms. Spinal stenosis in the neck has symptoms that are a little different. These symptoms include:
- Shoulder or neck pain: This can occur in the nerves in the neck are compressed although neck pain can be caused by problems other that spinal stenosis.
- Numbness: This is also often referred to as a tingling, cramping or pain in the thigh, buttocks, back, neck shoulders or arms.
- Weakness: Some experience a weakness in the leg, foot, hand and arm.
Frequency and intensity of symptoms vary from person to person. More serious symptoms include imbalance with walking, problems urinating or having a bowel movement or problems controlling urine or bowel movements.
There are several avenues for treatment of spinal stenosis. Many who experience spinal stenosis rely on methods such as physical therapy which can aid in building strength and endurance. Therapy can also teach exercises that can improve balance, control pain and help to maintain flexibility and stability of the spine. Another common treatment would be to restrict movement. Consider applying cold and warm compresses to the affected area.
Use the cold compress for 20 minutes before applying heat to the affected area for the same allotted time.
Spinal stenosis offers a reason for sufferers to relax and kick back in a hot tub for soothing of pain. Get a much needed massage to relieve tension in affected areas and promote blood flow. Corticosteroid injections may help reduce swelling in affected area. Other commonly used drugs include Tylenol, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and non-steroidical anti-inflammatory drugs. If there are no noticeably improvements in pain relief surgery may be an option.
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