You could be in the first stages of developing cervical spinal stenosis and not even know it. But when the condition worsens, it can become severe and control your life.
Understanding cervical spinal stenosis is the first step to living a healthier life.
However, some simple movements and exercises might lead to you developing severe pain. There are some easy ways to help manage the condition which will allow you to carry on living the best life you can.
But what exactly is it, and what are some things to avoid with cervical spinal stenosis? Read on to learn more about living with cervical spinal stenosis.
What Is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a serious condition that often develops in people over 50. Spinal stenosis is when the spinal canal begins to narrow and compress. The spinal canal protects the nerves and spinal cord. When it narrows, it can put pressure on nerves which can be painful.
There are two main types cervical stenosis and lumbar stenosis. Cervical stenosis happens when the spinal cord narrows near the neck. Lumbar stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows lower down causing lower back pain.
Symptoms of Cervical Spinal Stenosis
When the spinal cord narrows at the neck, causing cervical spinal stenosis, the symptoms don’t always present in the same way. In mild cases, some people may not have any signs or know they have spinal stenosis.
However, the most common symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis include:
- Back pain
- Leg pain
- Neck pain
- Difficulty walking and standing
- Tingling in extremities
The symptoms are caused by pressure on the spinal nerves. This can stop the nervous system from functioning correctly. The result is that many people who suffer from spinal stenosis also suffer from related conditions like Sciatica, Radiculopathy, and Myelopathy.
In more extreme conditions, people with spinal stenosis can suffer from incontinence and loss of bladder control. Finally, constant pressure on the spinal cord and nerves can result in permanent nerve damage.
Causes of Cervical Spinal Stenosis
The most common cause of cervical spinal stenosis is arthritis which is why the condition develops typically in people over 50. Arthritis breaks down the cartilage, which can cause the spinal cord to shift and narrow.
However, other causes of cervical spinal stenosis include
- Slipped discs
- Herniated discs
- Genetic conditions
Genetic conditions and injury are the most common reasons why a younger person may develop cervical spinal stenosis.
Things To Avoid With Cervical Spinal Stenosis
When cervical spinal stenosis develops, it will have an impact on everyday life. Pain, stiffness and numbness mean some basic movements may be restricted. You might need to change your routine to accommodate your condition.
The earlier you can take action, the less pain will impact your life. The first thing to do if you have spinal stenosis is to stop doing activities that could cause further damage.
Here are some things to avoid with spinal stenosis.
Road running and other high-impact activities can shock your spinal cord leading to inflammation and pain. Jogging, basketball, rugby, football, using a jump rope, and martial arts are all high impact and can cause trauma to the spine.
If you must do activities that are high impact, try to avoid long distances. Slowly working up to more intense activities can help your body adjust and helps prevent further injury. If you feel pain in your neck, you should stop.
This may mean you need to give up some sports entirely.
Some exercises and stretches can help with spinal stenosis. However, stretches and poses involving hyperextension can worsen the condition. Cervical stenosis exercises to avoid include spinal flexion and extensions. In moderation, they may help, but they can also increase pressure on the nerves and result in permanent damage.
Before stretching, contact a local cervical spinal stenosis doctor from Mt Airy, Maryland. A professional can guide you on which stretches will help, and which won’t.
Carrying Heavy Loads
Picking up heavy items puts additional strain on your neck and can permanently damage your spine. If possible, avoid carrying overly heavy items that are not easy to pick up. If you must move heavy objects, try to avoid picking them up off the floor, which involves bending down.
Learning how to pick up heavy objects correctly will help with back pain. Moving a heavy object means risking additional trauma, slipped disks, and potential nerve damage.
It’s hard to completely avoid jerky movements, but, if possible, try to avoid sudden, short sharp movements, especially turns and twists. This can place strain and pull and tear on your spinal ligaments. Avoid sharp head turns and move your whole body instead.
Unlike people who suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis, cervical spinal stenosis shouldn’t be made worse by twisting at the waist. Slow, gentle movements should minimize shock and stress on your neck and spine.
Although sudden, jerky movements can cause damage, so can remaining in one position for a long period. Extended periods of bed rest or lying down can strain the neck, leading to inflammation. When swollen, this means more pressure on your nerves and more pain.
Many cervical spinal stenosis exercises to avoid, such as sitting still, make working and living a normal life hard. Try taking short breaks to either walk around or sit down and give your body a rest.
Pushing Through The Pain
Many people attribute minor back and neck pain to small strains. Often you might ignore minor pain and take over-the-counter pain killers. With spinal stenosis, ignoring the pain will make the condition worse.
This is not a condition that will improve with time and without treatment. If you feel pain, you should stop what you are doing. Acknowledging the pain will help stop the condition from worsening.
Managing Spinal Stenosis
Being diagnosed with spinal stenosis means you will need to change how you live your life. You may have to give up some activities and movements.
In mild cases, some at-home treatment and exercises may be enough for you to live comfortably. However, in more severe cases, you may need medical intervention.
Here are a few things that could help with cervical spinal stenosis.
However, you don’t have to give up everything, and symptoms of spinal stenosis can improve with some exercise and at-home treatments. Specific stretches can help relieve pressure on the nerves and help temporarily widen the spinal canal. Specifically, Yoga and Pilates can help with pain management and swelling. However, you should speak to a doctor or specialist consultant first.
Other activities such as swimming can also help relieve pressure and reduce symptoms. Exercising in water takes some of your body weight and puts less weight on your joints. For people who developed cervical spinal stenosis due to arthritis, gentle water-based activities are the best.
Performing gentle strengthening exercises to improve muscle strength can also help. With strong core and neck muscles, you can help maintain the integrity of your spine. Lunges and gentle abs exercises are all beneficial. Just be careful not to strain your neck.
Surgery is sometimes an option so speaking to a medical professional about this option is always a good idea. Surgery isn’t always advisable and is usually the only option in more extreme cases.
Often, people with spinal stenosis have great success undergoing spinal cord stimulation treatments which can dramatically improve any numbness and tingling. Similarly, peripheral nerve stimulation can help in more advanced cases with nerve damage.
Since the spine and nervous system are so crucial to your health, it is advisable to speak to a specialist. Spine specialists can advise you on what activities should be avoided with cervical spinal stenosis. They will be able to prescribe and administer injections and pain relief so you can get on with your life.
Do You Have Spinal Stenosis? Get Help Today
Spinal stenosis can cause extreme pain, numbness, stiffness, and tingling, impacting your everyday life. There are things to avoid with cervical spinal stenosis, such as high-impact activities and specific movements that could worsen the condition.
However, a spinal stenosis diagnosis doesn’t have to rule your life. There are ways to manage the condition.
Expert cervical spinal stenosis doctors in Maryland can offer pain relief. They can help you with cervical foraminal stenosis exercises and improve your quality of life.
For more information, get in touch today and don’t let back and neck pain get in the way of your life.