Narrowing of the canal that the spinal cord travels through is called spinal stenosis. This narrowing places pressure on either the spinal cord itself, or the nerve roots that come off of the spinal cord and run down into the arms or legs. This can occur at any level in the spine.
Spinal stenosis is usually seen in people older than 50 years. It is the result of gradual wear and tear on the spine from everyday activities. Other causes include scoliosis or a genetically smaller spinal canal than normal.
The narrowing itself does not cause the symptoms of spinal stenosis. It is the inflammation of the nerves that begins to cause problems. Patient may feel pain, weakness, cramping or numbness in the arms or legs that is increased with walking and decreased with sitting or bending forward. Sometime patients report a decrease in their balance. The ability to perform functional activities is decreased (especially walking and standing).
Depending on the actual symptoms and severity of the disease, the treatment of spinal stenosis will vary. Treatment may include some of the following:
- Medication (such as NSAIDS for inflammation or opiods for pain).
- Epidural Steroid Injection
- Rest or a decrease in activity (especially standing and walking).
- Physical Therapy
- Bracing (such as a back brace to provide some support).
- Surgery (there are several types of surgery , but all them have the goal of decompressing the area in the spine that is causing the pain).
How Can Physical Therapy Help
The spinal stenosis treatment goals of physical therapy are to decrease pain, increase motion and strength, and increase function. Treatment may include:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
The Mayo Clinic