As we age, our bodies begin to feel the effects of years of wear and tear – as well as pure age-related degeneration. A perfect example is what happens if or when the spinal canal narrows. This puts pressure on the nerves that it is designed to protect.
This narrowing of the spinal canal is what is known as spinal stenosis. The condition causes pain, numbness, and muscle weakness either in your neck (cervical stenosis) or lower back (lumbar stenosis). It can also cause difficulty when walking and maintaining your balance.
Not only that, but in severe cases, spinal stenosis can also impair your bladder and bowel control. If your spinal stenosis is in the lower back – the most common kind of stenosis – you may experience pain and cramping in one or both of your legs when you stand for long periods of time.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
There are numerous causes of spinal stenosis, such as:
- Bone spurs, which are brought on by the wear-and-tear damage of osteoarthritis (also called simply “arthritis”)
- Herniated discs, which occur when the cushioning “shock absorbers” (discs) between your vertebrae dry out with age and crack (herniate) – thereby allowing some of the soft inner material to leak out and press against the spinal cord or nerves
- Tumors that form inside the spinal cord
- Dislocations or fractures caused by a car accident or other traumatic injury
What Are the Treatments for the Condition?
Fortunately, there’s a variety of treatment options for those diagnosed with spinal stenosis. These include both nonsurgical and surgical alternatives; treatment is based on the cause and severity of your condition, as well as your medical history.
Most often and whenever possible, your orthopedist will offer a series of conservative options – noninvasive or minimally invasive treatments – to help alleviate or, at least, manage your pain. The objective is to relieve the pressure on the nerve or to effectively block the pain signals between the affected nerve and your brain.
These treatment methods include:
- Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen (e.g. Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help reduce the pain and inflammation
- Physical therapy involving gentle movement, stretching, and/or range-of-motion exercises
- Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise
- Hot and cold compresses
- Corticosteroid injections to relieve pain and inflammation in a specific area
In addition, there are alternative treatment options that have been found to be effective for spinal stenosis such as massage therapy, chiropractic care, herbal medication, and acupuncture. These can be combined with more traditional techniques under the supervision of a medical professional.
If none of these treatment measures prove successful, then minimally invasive spinal surgery may be recommended. This typically involves making a small incision that does not affect supporting muscles. The advantage of this approach is that it reduces the risk of complications while requiring a much shorter post-operative recovery time than with traditional surgery.
Pain Doctors in Texas
If you are suffering from any form of back pain that is negatively impacting the quality of your life, it’s time to see a pain management specialist. At Pain Specialists of Austin, you will find highly qualified doctors, physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners, and professional staff who will provide you with the exceptional care you need to start feeling better again.
Call us today at (855) 876-7246 to make an appointment to discuss treatment options. You can also fill out our convenient appointment request form. We look forward to helping you enjoy a more pain-free lifestyle!