Spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition that can lead to back pain, weakness in the arms or legs, and balance problems. There are a variety of treatments available, and most cases of spinal stenosis can be treated with non-surgical methods aimed at relieving painful symptoms.
The spine is made up of a column of bones called vertebrae that provide stability, flexibility, and support for the upper body. Along with surrounding tissue, they also protect the spinal nerves that run through openings in the vertebrae. Nerves transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body. If they become damaged or trapped, it can affect balance, walking, and sensation.
When spinal stenosis occurs, it causes the spinal canal to become narrow, placing pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. It is typically caused by the gradual degeneration of the spine during the aging process. The spinal discs become less fluid-filled and harden with age, causing them to lose height and bulge into the spinal canal. Spinal facet joints and ligaments can also thicken and enlarge, causing them to push into the spinal canal. Arthritis is often the cause of these structural changes. Spinal stenosis is a gradual process, and doesn’t always produce symptoms, but over time, it can lead to severe or progressive nerve damage, loss of function, and pain, particularly when standing or walking.
Treatment Options For Spinal Stenosis
Most cases of spinal stenosis can be treated with non-surgical methods aimed at pain relief, which can include over-the-counter and prescription medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation. Analgesic medication such as acetaminophen is commonly used for spinal stenosis. If symptoms do not significantly improve with medications, treatment from a pain management specialist and physical therapy can be beneficial.
A pain management specialist can perform pain relieving treatments and other less invasive procedures, such as epidural steroid injections and nerve blocks, which aim to target inflammation and pain. The epidural injection is placed into the space around the spinal cord and nerves and the steroid (a type of cortisone) “leaks” around the nerves to decrease inflammation and irritation. Multiple injections may be required and are often given in a series of three, one injection per week. Nerve blocks are anesthetics that are injected around the damaged nerves to prevent or control pain symptoms.
Stretching and strengthening exercises can be very beneficial relieving symptoms of spinal stenosis and to help keep the back flexible. A physical and/or occupational therapist can help design a suitable exercise program to strengthen core muscles in the back and stomach, as well as in the legs or arms, which may have been weakened as a result of nerve compression. Cardiovascular exercises can also help to build up endurance and improve blood circulation to the nerves, which helps to relieve symptoms of spinal stenosis. In some cases, a lumbar brace or corset may be recommended during certain activities to provide support for individuals with weak muscles or spinal degeneration. Assistive medical equipment, such as a cane for walking or a shower chair, can help aid in safety and activity performance.
Other non-surgical treatment modalities can also include alternative medicine techniques, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care, which can help to ease pain and improve movement. Yoga and tai chi can help to improve core strength.
In severe cases, and where non-surgical methods do not work successfully, surgical treatment and further physical therapy may be necessary to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, restore function, and relieve pain.
Interventional Pain Management in Boca Raton, FL
If you have spinal pain, Kamerlink Pain Institute can help. We focus on compassionate, effective, interventional pain management, from non-opioid medications to pain relieving injections, and other less invasive procedures and treatments. Our Harvard trained, board-certified pain management physician, Dr. Jonathan Kamerlink, has the expertise necessary to help you live life the way you want – pain free.
For more information about our pain management services, or to make an appointment, call us today at (561) 404-7667.