Diagnosed With Spinal Stenosis? What Are Your Options?

Health & Medical Articles

If you've recently been informed you suffer from spinal stenosis -- a painful and potentially serious compression of your spinal cord -- you may be worried and wondering about your treatment options. Fortunately, advances in technology have given you a number of relatively non-invasive choices when it comes to treating your spinal stenosis. Read on to learn more about the different ways you can manage your symptoms.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a catch-all term for compression of the spinal cord -- and it's estimated that at least 1.2 million Americans suffer from back or leg pain associated with this compression. There are three primary categories of stenosis -- foraminal or lateral, central, and far lateral.

  • Foraminal stenosis

This refers to a compression of the spinal cord as it emerges from the side of your lower vertebrae, and is one of the most common causes of sciatica or leg numbness.

  • Central stenosis

Central stenosis involves an interior compression of the spine from the central "tube" through which it travels, and is more common in the lower spine.

  • Far lateral stenosis

This is a more complicated form of stenosis that involves pressure on the spinal cord from a bone spur or bulging disc. Despite its more complex structure as compared to other types of stenosis, it is one of the easier forms to treat surgically.

What causes spinal stenosis?

Most cases of spinal stenosis are simply the result of the aging process and normal "wear and tear" on your vertebrae. Over time, activities like jogging, going up and down stairs, or even sitting cross-legged in a chair for hours a week at your job can weaken the delicate bones and connective tissue that surround your spinal cord. Aging also carries with it the risk of developing osteoarthritis of the spine or bone spurs, both of which can aggravate the beginning stages of stenosis.

How can you treat spinal stenosis?

There are several treatments -- both surgical and non-surgical -- to help you manage the symptoms and effects of spinal stenosis.

  • Muscle relaxants

As a first step, your doctor may prescribe you non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or muscle relaxants to help ease the chronic pain and muscle spasms you may be experiencing. Depending upon your pain level, your doctor may also prescribe narcotic medication while you take advantage of one of the below methods to begin to reduce spinal compression.

  • Physical therapy

Your doctor may connect you with a physical therapist who has experience in treating spinal and other orthopedic injuries. In some cases, you may be able to significantly reduce or even eliminate spinal compression by performing a regular regimen of stretching exercises.

  • Steroid injections

If your spinal inflammation is causing you pain, you may want to look into a corticosteroid injection regimen. These steroids reduce the inflammation that compresses your spinal cord, and can lead to almost instantaneous pain relief. However, repeated usage can further weaken your vertebrae, so you'll only be able to get these injections a couple of times per year -- you may want to supplement this treatment method with muscle relaxants or physical therapy.

  • Spinal surgery

As a last resort, your doctor may recommend that you seek surgical repair of the bone spurs, bulging discs, or other physical problems that are compressing your spinal cord. This surgery is relatively minor and is usually performed on an outpatient basis. You'll be on restricted lifting and activity duty for a few weeks, but can quickly return to your normal routine. Although this surgery is generally only used in severe cases of stenosis that are affecting your ability to perform everyday activities, it is generally successful in treating stenosis.

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27 March 2015

Tips for Living a Great Life with Chronic Illness

I was always very healthy throughout my childhood, but when I became a teenager, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. Thankfully, I had the support of my loving family to help keep me upbeat during a time that could have led to me experiencing the depression that some do after they first learn they will have an illness for life. I am very grateful for the advice I have gotten throughout my life, so I decided to create a blog where I can share all of the advice that has helped me live a happy, healthy life, despite having a chronic illness. Since I am on a medication that suppresses my immune system, I have also studied up on many other illnesses and tips for avoiding them and treating them. I plan to post health tips for people of a variety of ages and suffering with various illnesses!