Living With Lumbar Spinal Stenosis? Understand, Treat, And Recover From Spinal Stenosis
From arthritis and wrinkles to memory loss, age causes many physical and emotional changes in a person. While many of these changes are impossible to avoid, treatments are available for many patients who prefer a more comfortable, fulfilling life. Common in patients 50 years old and over, spinal stenosis stems from a progressing arthritis, damage to ligaments, or an injury affecting your disc. Thankfully, this guide can help you understand, treat, and recovery from spinal stenosis.
Your spine is incredibly strong, but it goes through many changes as you age. For most people, the spaces between your spine close in and narrow. This narrowing places stress on your spinal cord and connecting nerves. Due to this stress, patients with spinal stenosis experience a great deal of pain.
In rare cases, the condition does not display any symptoms. However, others live with intense pain that requires complete bed rest or the use of a wheelchair or other mobility aids. If you notice one of the following physical signs, visit your doctor for a spinal exam:
- Leg or Arm Pain – Pain may begin at the top of your leg, but will radiate down one or both without treatment. Pain can also occur in one or both arms.
- Neck Pain – Severe neck pain is common.
- Back Pain – Whether moving or resting, back pain is also a common sign of spinal stenosis.
- Tingling, Numbing – You may feel slight tingling or cramping in your legs, arms, neck, or back. These sensations may also cause parts of your body to go numb.
Once your doctor sees evidence of spinal stenosis on an X-ray or MRI, a thorough treatment plan will be devised.
Before fully treating the condition, your doctor will need to help you with pain management. Managing this pain will most likely involve taking a pain medication on a daily basis. Of course, each option offers different side effects so discuss best medication for your specific needs with your physician. Here are a few pain medications to consider:
- NSAIDs – NSAIDs, or Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, decrease pain by reducing the inflammation in and around your spine. They offer minimal relief for patients with severe spinal stenosis, but the medications are available without a prescription.
- Muscle Relaxers – Muscle spasms are common in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis, so having a prescription muscle relaxer on hand is smart for fast relief. Prescription muscle relaxers cause intense drowsiness, so use precaution when taking.
- Opioids – Opioids offer tremendous relief for patients suffering with any type of pain. Unfortunately, the efficient relief is a key factor in why opioids are so addictive. Be sure to discuss the possibility of overusing these medications.
- Injections – A steroid injection directly into an area of your spine can be beneficial for improving nerve irritation and swelling in and around your spine. Steroid injections are not the most pleasant option for managing pain, but they do offer relief for many patients.
While surprising to hear, physical therapy can help manage pain and treat your spinal stenosis. However, you must work with an experienced physical therapist that can design exercises based on your condition's severity and your overall health.
Walking, swimming, yoga, and even light jogging can help build your body's strength back up. In addition, exercise under doctor's supervision can improve your endurance and balance, which are important when living with a spine disorder.
Living with spinal stenosis can be painful, but the condition can also limit your everyday activities. Fortunately, 70 to 80 percent of patients have found relief with a lumbar laminectomy.
During this surgery, your doctor locates an irritated area of your spinal nerves before removing a section of bone. This creates additional space between the discs of your spine, which relieves the pressure and irritation of your spinal nerves.
As with most surgeries, proper recovery is imperative for healing. You will need to plan to buy wheelchair for your use post surgery. Rest and light movement with and without your wheelchair is best after surgery. Most patients are able to resume normal activities a few days after the surgery.
Pain and discomfort is easy to manage for some people. However, spinal stenosis can wreak havoc on basic tasks and daily activities. Using this guide, you will understand, manage, treat, and recover from this serious spine condition.