It is predicted that up to 80% of people will suffer from neck or back pain at some point during their lives. Back and neck pain may be caused by spinal stenosis. It affects the vertebrae (backbone bones), narrowing the gaps in those bones from which the spinal cord and nerves travel.
What Is Spinal Stenosis and How Does It Affect You?
Spinal stenosis narrows the spinal column’s vertebrae that induce undue pressure on the spinal cord (central stenosis) or nerves (lateral stenosis). Spinal stenosis may affect the neck or lower back.
The following are the most important causes of spinal stenosis that are linked to the ageing of the spine:
- Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage between joints deteriorates. To stabilize the area, the body also forms additional bone (called “bone spurs”) in response to the injury. These bone spurs could place pressure on the nerves near the exit point of the spinal canal.
- The disks that provide space between each collection of vertebrae will flatten as a result of normal ageing. The nerve has less room to leave the spinal cord because of the restricted vacuum.
- Spinal stenosis can be caused by trauma to the spine, bone disorders (such as Paget disease), spinal tumours, and certain spinal ligaments’ thickening.
Physical exercise and other conservative therapies will typically successfully control the effects of spinal stenosis. Surgery or spinal injections are only needed in the most serious cases of spinal stenosis.
Symptoms and Signs
Spinal stenosis can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Arms and shoulders, thighs, or trunk pain, numbness, tingling, or fatigue
- Occasionally, you can have difficulties with your bowel or bladder function.
Depending on which nerves are damaged by spinal stenosis in the neck (cervical spinal stenosis), you can experience fatigue, numbness, and pain in one or both arms, as well as pain in the legs. The pain in your neck may or may not be there.
If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you can experience stiffness, numbness, and fatigue in your lower back and either or both legs, but not in your arms. Walking can aggravate the symptoms, while sitting may alleviate them.
What Is the Process of Diagnosis?
Since spinal stenosis symptoms are frequently confusing with those of other age-related disorders, it’s important to get a correct diagnosis. Your physical therapist will do a detailed assessment, including a review of your medical records, and use screening tests to assess if you have spinal stenosis. Your physical therapist may: Ask about the extent and essence of your pain, fatigue, and other symptoms in great detail.
Request that you complete a body diagram indicating particular sites of discomfort, numbness, or tingling.
To assess the magnitude of the pressure on the nerve root, perform muscle strength and feeling checks.
Examine your body and pay attention to how you walk and do other tasks.
Measure the range of motion of your arms and legs, as well as your back.
Manual treatment should be used to measure the mobility of the spine’s joints and muscles.
Important muscle groups are put to the test.
Diagnostic measures such as an X-ray or an MRI may be required if you have muscle fatigue, lack of feeling, or extreme pain. Physical therapists collaborate with doctors and other healthcare professionals to ensure a correct diagnosis and adequate treatment.
Conservative treatment, such as physical rehabilitation, provides greater outcomes than surgery in any more severe spinal stenosis instances (usually involving muscular weakening or elevated degrees of pain).