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Spinal Stenosis

Could Your Chronic Back Pain be Spinal Stenosis?

Chronic back pain and neck pain are both very common complaints resulting in visits to doctors' offices, but when is chronic back pain a sign of a spinal disease such as spinal stenosis? Spinal stenosis is a "narrowing of one or more areas in your spine - most often in your neck or lower back" (Mayo Clinic) which results in pressure to the spinal cord or spinal nerves.

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

As we age the spinal disks become drier and begin to shrink, while simultaneously bones and ligaments swell and chronic inflammation increases (often associated with arthritis, another age related medical condition) and together these can cause spinal stenosis. Thickened ligaments and spine disk degeneration are also common age-related causes of this spinal condition.

In general, most people suffering from spinal stenosis are over 50 years old, but younger people can also be affected. Other spinal stenosis causes are genetic disorders (such as Achondroplasia), spinal tumors, and spinal injuries.

Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

It is common for symptoms to be on one side of the body or the other, become gradually worse over time, and vary depending where on the spine the stenosis is located.

In addition to shoulder or neck pain, cervical spinal stenosis symptoms can include numbness, tingling, or weakness in any of the extremeties (you may notice you're dropping more things as a result). Severe cases may result in loss of bladder or bowel control (incontinence) because nerves leading to those areas are being affected. Be aware that you can have spinal stenosis without any neck pain, and if neck pain is present it can be caused by many other things outside of spinal stenosis.

If the compressed nerves are in the lower back, lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms can include cramping or pain in the lower back or legs resulting in an inability to stand or walk for long periods of time. Usually symptoms increase when you are standing and decrease when you sit down or lean forward. These symptoms can turn into difficulty walking and/or maintain balance when walking.

Experts advise calling your doctor if you experience numbness or weakness in your back, neck, legs or arms.

Spinal Stenosis Treatment

Non Surgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis: Before resulting to surgery, there are numerous options for treatment of spinal stenosis. Anti-inflammatory medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, are common treatments. Spinal injections may be used, but only after other options are exhausted as the side effects can be more intense.

Physical therapy is one of the most common advised treatments for spinal stenosis patients. A physical therapist can show you spinal stenosis exercises to help you strengthen your spine, and increase the spine's stability and flexibility. Wearing a back brace, such as the Bauerfeind LordoLoc Back Support, both during exercises and everyday activities can help support your back and spine. Physical therapists also utilize hot and cold therapy, magnetic therapy, ultrasound and electrotherapy to help treat symptoms of spinal stenosis. Numerous products are available on the market to provide you the same pain relief at home you receive at the physical therapist's office. The revolutionary PolyGel ThermoActive Hot Cold Compression Back Support gives you the option of hot or cold therapy (via reusable, patented gel packs) with optional customized compression. Even electrotherapy is affordable, easy, and convenient to use at home with products like the FDA-cleared Laser Touch One Pain Relief Device.

Massage is another natural treatment for spinal stenosis, and can be provided by a physical therapist, massage therapist, or any number of massage products for convenient massage anytime in the comfort of your own home. For any easy home massage option, the inventive Backarc Pro Neck and Back Massager's arc shape mirrors the spine's natural curve and is wall mounted for an easy massage without the need for any assistance. The ultimate in massage heaven is a 5 in 1 aire pressure massage chair, but spinal stenosis sufferers needing a more economical treatment can still find pain relief with a heated massage from the Ultimate Jade Massager with Heat.

Spinal Stenosis Surgery: Spinal stenosis surgery is performed only after other treatments have been tried and failed, and you are disabled by your symptoms. Even then the surgical risks are high and complications should be seriously considered before proceeding with surgical treatment.

Life with Spinal Stenosis?

People with spinal stenosis are able to lead active lives for many years with their condition, though some lifestyle and work load changes may be necessary depending on the severity and symptoms of spinal stenosis. Numerous independent living aids are available on the market which are affordable tools to help you live an active, independent life; these may include everything from mobility aids (such as walkers) to grab bars for the bathroom. Additionally, a variety of pain relief products are available to help you control and relieve your stenosis symptoms and live a full life regardless of a spinal stenosis diagnosis.


By: Kate Harvey,

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