According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, spinal stenosis is a silent epidemic. It is estimated that 2.4 million Americans will suffer from spinal stenosis by 2021. Spinal stenosis occurs mostly in people 50 and over, but can occur in younger adults with a history of arthritis.
What is spinal stenosis?
Spinal Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the canals in your spine that are formed by the vertebrae. This narrowing can impinge on the nerves exiting your spine or the spinal cord itself. Symptoms can vary, but often include radiating pain to the back, buttocks and even legs. Furthermore, weakness and poor balance in the legs can often occur making it difficult to tolerate walking long distances and especially prolonged standing.
This is the most common form of spinal stenosis. This refers to the foramen canals on either side of the spine formed by the vertebrae above and below the segment. These canals are where nerves exit at each level of the lower back to supply different parts of the pelvis and legs. With age and deterioration of the discs between the spine, the canals shrink in size and may also have bone spurs. This irritates the nerve roots, especially with the spine being extended. Sitting typically feels better, but standing and backward bending increase pain.
Is surgery needed?
There is a big push today towards fusion surgery for spinal stenosis and back pain in general. However, this is being done aggressively before conservative measures such as physical therapy are being performed. In the vast majority of cases, surgery is not needed and people will have significant if not complete relief of their symptoms with physical therapy. Physical therapy targets the muscles and joints of the spine to build strength, improve stability of the spine and maintain the foramen as open as possible.
If you believe you have spinal stenosis symptoms, then contact us today at West Orange, NJ center to speak with one of our expert physical therapists. Our SPINE program has helped thousands of patients successfully relieve their back and stenosis pain.