The Truths Behind Spinal Stenosis
By Neurosurgery Singapore
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. It occurs most often in the lower back and the neck.
Most commonly caused of Spinal stenosis is by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis. In severe cases, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves.
What are some symptoms related to spinal stenosis?
Spinal stenosis usually affects your neck or lower back. Not everyone has symptoms, but if you do, they tend to be the same: stiffness, numbness, and back pain.
More specific symptoms include:
- Sciatica. These shooting pains down your leg start as an ache in the lower back or buttocks.
- Foot drop. Painful leg weakness may cause you to “slap” your foot on the ground.
- A hard time standing or walking. When you’re upright, it tends to compress the vertebrae, causing pain.
- Loss of bladder or bowel control. In extreme cases, it weakens the nerves to the bladder or bowel.
“Many people with spinal stenosis lead full lives and remain active. However, they may need to make modifications to their physical activity.”
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What types of treatments?
Pharmaceutical treatment is typically tried first. The goal is to relieve your pain. Injections into your spinal column can reduce swelling. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also help with pain.
Physical therapy may also be an option. It can strengthen muscles and gently stretch your body.
Surgery may be needed for severe pain or if there is a neurological loss. It can relieve pressure permanently. Several types of surgery are used to treat spinal stenosis:
- Laminectomy is the most common type of surgery. A surgeon removes part of your vertebrae to provide more room for the nerves.
- Foraminotomy is a surgery that’s done to widen the part of the spine where the nerves exit.
- Spinal fusion is typically performed in more severe cases, especially when multiple levels of the spine are involved, to prevent instability. Bone grafts or metal implants are used to attach the affected bones of the spine together.
Things you can do to manage your pain
Spinal stenosis can lead to the slow but steady loss of strength in the legs. The severe pain caused by this condition can be quite disabling, even if you have no muscle weakness, since it greatly affects your ability to work and enjoy life. The natural course of the disease is one of slow progression over time. There is no cure for this condition but there are steps you can take to feel better. For example:
- Get moving. Regular exercise is very important, so do it often – at least three times a week for about 30 minutes. Start slowly with flexion-based (forward-bending) exercises. As you begin to feel stronger, add walking or swimming to your plan.
- Modify your activity. Don’t do anything that can trigger or worsen pain and disability such as lifting heavy objects or walking long distances.
- Explore non-surgical options first except in rare cases when pain, weakness and numbness comes on quickly.