Spinal Stenosis can make it difficult to maintain your usual activity level.  Lower back pain, tingling and weakness in the legs make it more difficult to walk for a period of time, and in many cases even going grocery shopping can prove to be difficult.  Because spinal stenosis can come on gradually, you may not notice that it’s interfering with your life.  So as you go through your daily activities: Do you notice yourself leaning forward to relieve your back or leg pain? For example, if you’re shopping for groceries, are you leaning on your cart to relieve back and leg pain?  Or does your pain ease up when you sit or lie down?

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Simply put, spinal stenosis, is a narrowing of the spine.  This narrowing or tightness can pinch the spinal cord and the nerves around it causing pain, numbness, tingling from the lower back to the back of your leg.  Spinal stenosis is another root cause of sciatica.  About 90% of people with this condition have developed spinal stenosis over time because it is part of the natural process of aging.  As you age, your bones naturally degenerate and is often worsened by osteoarthritis, which can cause changes in your disks and add pressure to your sciatic nerve.

There are two main types of Spinal Stenosis:  Lumbar Stenosis and Cervical Stenosis.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis:

Is a narrowing in the lower back, near the base of the spine.

Cervical Stenosis: 

Is a narrowing in the neck.

Click here or the video below to watch a short explanation of Spinal Stenosis:

What are the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition.  However, these are the most common symptoms for spinal stenosis.

Lumbar Stenosis:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Pain, numbness, weakness in the buttocks and/or down the leg, commonly referred to Sciatica.
  • Increased tingling, pain and weakness in one or both legs after walking and standing for some time.

Cervical Stenosis:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder,  and/or down the arm
  • Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms or hands

Treatment Options

Because every body is different, doctors may prescribe the following common treatment options:

  • Medication: Oral medicine to treat inflammation can provide temporary pain relief.
  • Injections: Steroid or epidural shots relieve severe pain, often within 24 hours, but their effects are usually temporary.
  • Surgery: Surgical procedures are individualized to your specific problem, but the most common one, spinal fusion, fuses your bones together, stabilize them, and prevent nerve damage.  The healing process can take three to six months, but it’s important to note that it rarely cures back pain which tends to have a better response with exercise and physical therapy.
  • Physical Therapy:  Physical therapy is prescribed to naturally reduce pain by getting key areas in your body stronger and moving in order to relieve stress on painful structures and help to keep the pain from returning.

How Can Physical Therapy Get You Walking Again, Even with Spinal Stenosis?

Physical Therapy can relieve your pain and get you walking again, without having to resort to spinal surgery or relying heavily on medication.  Treatment may include various types of physical and manual therapies and exercises, nerve mobilization, joint mobilization, myofascial release, as well as functional retraining.  Placing focus on your posture, maintaining alignment of your spine will minimize further injury.  We also tailor a home exercise program consisting of no more than 2 – 3 exercises at a time that will address your individual muscle imbalance, strengthen your back and corresponding muscle groups.  We specialize in Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (OMPT).  This involves hands-on techniques for restoring mobility, reducing muscle tension, and restoring your natural movement without pain.

What are your walking goals?  Do you want to shop for groceries without back pain and discomfort?  Or are you ready to take longer walks around the block with the rest of the family?  Whatever your activity goals, Advanced Physical Therapy Specialists is here to help you get there.

If this sounds familiar and you’re ready to get back out there and walk pain free, feel free to give us a call .  You can talk to a specialists for free and find out if physical therapy is right for you.