Spinal stenosis can occur in both the neck and in the lower back. In the neck symptoms can include numbness, weakness, tingling in a leg, foot, arm or hand and possible the bladder or bowel may be affected. In the lower back stenosis can cause pain in the buttocks (unilateral or bilateral), leg pain, heaviness, numbness, tingling, or weakness precipitated by walking and standing. People with lumbar spinal stenosis will feel relief when sitting and bending forward. Because this condition affects the lower limbs and pain is made worse by standing and walking, people will restrict activity leading to a more sedentary lifestyle which causes a progressive decline in overall health. Severe cases of stenosis may lead to paralysis.
There are a number of possible causes for spinal stenosis including:
Overgrowth of bone: Wear and tear on the spine can lead to the formation of bone spurs which can grow into spinal canal.
Herniated disks: When a disk has a crack in its exterior it may allow some of the inner material to escape which in turn may compress the spinal cord or nerves.
Spinal Injuries: Car accidents and other trauma can lead to damage to the vertebrae. Displaced bone caused by a spinal fracture may damage the contents of the spinal canal, while adjacent tissue may put pressure on the spinal cord/nerves following back surgery.
Tumors: If an abnormal growth forms inside the spinal cord or in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae can also lead to compression.
Thickened Ligaments: The ligaments that help hold the spine together can become stiff and thick over time. These ligaments can sometimes bulge into the spinal canal.
So how does someone relieve the symptoms of neurogenic claudication? Some people may find relief from NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) however long term use of NSAID’s can lead to some serious complications.
Surgery may be an option to help but usually first priority is to try more conservative treatments. If those treatments fail, you’re disabled by your symptoms and you’re in good health otherwise surgery may be considered.
Your physiotherapist can help by focusing on pain relief, restoring normal range of motion and finally by restoring function. The first step is to reduce pain, this may involve ice therapy, electrotherapy, soft tissue massage and de-loading of the inflamed areas. Once the pain and inflammation has been reduced your Physiotherapist will attempt to restore normal joint alignment, range of motion, muscle strength and endurance. Finally, your physiotherapist will focus on restoring pelvic and spine alignment and increasing range of motion in various postures. All techniques performed by you Physiotherapist will be suited to your functional goals and helping you to achieve them.
For more information or to book an appointment with one of our skilled practitioners, contact us and we would be happy to help you!