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Spinal Stenosis and Physiotherapy

Spinal Stenosis and Physiotherapy

What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is when the spinal canal through which the spinal cord and nerves pass through begins to narrow down, thus creating pressure or ‘choking’ the spinal cord and nerves.  This might happen either in the spinal canal in the center of the vertebral column or in the foramens through which nerves leave the spine and go to other parts of the body. Most common cause of spinal stenosis in men and women is related to degenerative changes that come along with aging. In the infrequent cases that it might occur in younger people, it is usually because they have suffered an injury or are born with a narrow canal.

Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Most common symptoms of this disease are that the patients experience numbness in certain areas, muscle weakness, cramping or pain in the limbs and impaired reflexes. More specific symptoms may depend on which part of the spine is affected, the most common being the lumbar(low back) and cervical (neck) region.  This usually affects movement of the legs and/or arms, causing pain, tingling and weakness. If the narrowed space is pushing down on the nerve roots, patients are likely to experience shooting pains which are only relieved by sitting or adjusting posture.
Spinal Stenosis Treatment
The primary reason to seek physiotherapy for stenosis is so that you can manage your pain.  The therapist may use an array of tools such as ice therapy, electrotherapy, acupuncture, soft tissue massage and temporary back brace to reduce pain and inflammation. Your doctor may also recommend anti-inflammatory drugs to assist the process.

The next step is to ensure that your movement is optimized. The physiotherapist will direct his attentions to restoring normal joint alignment and range of motion, muscle length and resting tension, muscle strength and endurance.  He may design an exercise regime to help muscles in your lower abdomen and core to stabilize your spine. Your therapist could also recommend a stretching program to ease you into the main exercises and loosen your muscles.

As the condition of your back improves, the physiotherapist will now try to help you through more stressful positions and postures by realigning your pelvic and spine alignment and increasing your leg muscle power. The aim is to help you to return to your daily activities to the fullest extent possible, although the demands and limits of each body may differ. Your therapist will guide you to the best rehabilitation program.

You must remember to continue with the exercises that your therapist recommended to you and do them at least a few times a week.  Failure to do so may cause the back pain to return and undo all the progress that you have made so far. In addition, you must visit your therapist regularly to assess any defects in movement and correct them with the right set of exercises and orthotics. Your therapist may also recommend that you maintain an active lifestyle with adequate exercising in the form of swimming, yoga, pilates or walking.