Did your back start hurting after you turned 50? If so, you may be experiencing spinal stenosis.
It’s a condition that occurs when your spinal canal starts to narrow, putting pressure on your spinal cord and nerves. Stenosis most commonly appears in your lower back or neck.
Symptoms can include pain, numbness, and tingling. You may also feel weakness in your legs and arms. Stenosis usually develops gradually, and the symptoms come and go. They may be worse during some activities, like walking or standing upright.
The most common cause is arthritis. However, stenosis can also develop earlier and faster in case of injury or certain bone conditions such as Paget’s disease.
There is no cure for stenosis, but there are effective medical treatments and home remedies. Learn more about how to find relief.
Medical Treatment for Spinal Stenosis:
- Get diagnosed. If your doctor suspects you have stenosis, they’ll begin with taking your medical history. They’ll also do a physical exam, and order X Rays and other imaging tests.
- Take medication. Your doctor may recommend a variety of drugs. If over the counter pain remedies are inadequate, a short-term course of prescription pain relievers or steroid injections could help while you learn other coping strategies.
- Start physical therapy. Most patients with stenosis benefit from working with a physical therapist. You may need only a few sessions to learn exercises that you’ll be able to continue doing at home on your own.
- Ask about alternative therapies. Let your doctor know if you’re interested in acupuncture, massage, or seeing a chiropractor. They can help you understand how these options might work for you and coordinate your overall care.
- Consider surgery. If your symptoms are severe, you may need to decide whether to have an operation. Your doctor can explain your choices, including a laminectomy to remove some portions of the affected vertebrae or less invasive procedures.
- Seek urgent care. In rare cases, stenosis patients may develop cauda equina syndrome that poses a risk for permanent nerve damage. Call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately if you lose bladder or bowel control, or your pelvic area becomes numb.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes for Spinal Stenosis:
- Adjust your posture. Keeping your back straight when you sit and stand can help prevent stenosis. However, if you already have symptoms, leaning forward may ease your discomfort.
- Lose weight. Any extra pounds put more stress on your spine and the rest of your skeleton. Talk with your doctor about how to reach a healthy weight for you. That might mean consuming more whole foods and fewer empty calories. Small changes to your diet can make a big difference over time.
- Apply heat and cold. Ice packs and heating pads are a simple way to achieve quick relief. Hold them on the sore area for about 20 minutes at a time.
- Use assistive devices. You may find it difficult to walk if your stenosis becomes advanced. Browse online for products like corsets, braces, and walkers. Follow your doctor’s recommendations to avoid overuse that could further weaken your spine.
- Stay active. It’s natural to be hesitant about working out when you’re already feeling under the weather. However, protecting your mobility will keep you stronger and fitter in the long run. Along with the exercises you learn in physical therapy, you may want to try cycling and swimming. Be sure to take rest days when you need them.
Managing your stenosis can help you feel more comfortable and continue enjoying the activities you love. The more you know about your condition, the more you can do to increase your quality of life.