Did you know that more than 500,000 people in the United States alone suffer from a form of spinal stenosis? Lumbar spinal stenosis can be especially debilitating to one’s health and way of life, especially when left untreated. The worst thing about spinal stenosis is that it only gets worse as time goes on, and you avoid treatment.
Eventually, spinal stenosis can get so severe that it can be hard to move around and do the things in your daily life that you enjoy doing. Fortunately, you don’t have to be robbed of your life if you seek treatment for your stenosis before it advances too far. But what kind of treatment options are available, and how can you know that the treatments will work for you?
Keep reading and learn more about your treatment options and what spinal stenosis is exactly.
What Is Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Exactly?
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Is spinal stenosis a disability?” or “Is spinal stenosis a permanent disability?” the answer is that it certainly can be. Spinal stenosis has to do with the structure of your spinal column and, specifically your spinal canal. The spinal canal is a narrow space that exists within your spine between the vertebrae.
This canal is where your spinal cord rests. Normally, the spinal canal functions to protect the spinal cord from damage. However, in the case of spinal stenosis, part of the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord.
Not only does this affect the spinal cord itself but also the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. Lumbar spinal stenosis is a type of spinal stenosis that specifically affects the lower part of the spine. Even though spinal stenosis can happen at any point along your spine, it most commonly occurs in the lower back.
The Causes of Spinal Stenosis and Preventing Stenosis
The main cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis. This involves the stiffening of the spine, and it makes it difficult to move the spine in various ways. Osteoarthritis of the spine tends to happen after the age of 50. However, injuries to the spine may increase your risk of developing spinal stenosis.
Is spinal stenosis preventable, you might ask? While there is no precise way in which you can prevent spinal stenosis, there are a few things you can do to keep your spine healthy throughout your life.
For example, keeping your spine in good alignment is important. You can accomplish this by having good posture and sitting upright. Stretching and exercising your back muscles are both important as well.
By strengthening the muscles in your back, it will be easier to keep your spine aligned and healthy. But how can you tell that you have spinal stenosis in the first place?
How to Know If You Have Spinal Stenosis
Before you search for “spinal stenosis specialist near me” or “lumbar spinal stenosis treatment, Maryland,” you will first need to know whether or not your lower back pain is really lumbar spinal stenosis. There are a few ways in which you can tell whether or not you have spinal stenosis, and your doctor can help diagnose you. First, you will need to understand your symptoms.
One of the most obvious symptoms is a pain in the lower spine. However, you shouldn’t take this symptom as a sure sign that you have lumbar spinal stenosis. This is because there are many other things that may cause lower back pain, such as ordinary stiffness or soreness.
The particular pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis tends to be quite severe, especially if you have had spinal stenosis for a while. Many people with spinal stenosis describe the pain as a sort of burning pain. This burning pain may radiate from the lower back down into the hips and legs.
This is a condition known as sciatica since it involves the compression of the sciatic nerve, which splits at the base of the spine and follows down into each leg.
Some people with spinal stenosis find that they may experience numbness or tingling in their lower spine and legs.
In the case of severe stenosis, your feet and legs may feel weak, and it may be difficult to control them. For example, when walking, your feet may drag along the ground or they may flop in an unusual way with every step. For a sure diagnosis, you should go to a doctor.
Your doctor will be able to tell whether or not you have spinal stenosis with the help of an X-ray or an MRI. If you do have spinal stenosis, you will then need to seek out lumbar spinal stenosis doctors who can help keep your problem from getting any worse.
What Are the Treatment Options for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
The first line of treatment for spinal stenosis is treating the main symptoms, which mostly include pain. If your spinal stenosis pain is only mild, you may benefit from the short-term use of OTC pain medications such as Tylenol. However, OTC medications are usually not strong enough to treat the pain caused by severe spinal stenosis.
In this case, your doctor will likely need to prescribe you something stronger so your pain isn’t debilitating. Physical therapy is also beneficial. People with spinal stenosis tend not to have very active lifestyles, but staying active is very important to help with back pain and spinal flexibility.
However, you should keep in mind that pain medication and physical therapy will not actually fix the root of the problem. If your stenosis gets worse, you will need to seek more serious treatment options. Steroid injections are an increasingly popular spinal stenosis treatment.
Steroids are ideal for bringing down inflammation in the body. Your spinal cord and nerve roots may become inflamed after being compressed for so long. If they become inflamed, they will contribute more to your stenosis pain.
By injecting steroids into your spine, the steroids have the opportunity to diminish any inflammation that your spine may be experiencing. While this won’t fix the stenosis, it can certainly help with the pain. It is also a more mild procedure for spinal stenosis in contrast to more serious options such as surgery.
But keep in mind that you should only get steroid injections a few times every year. If you get them more often than that, the injections might start to weaken the bones in your spine.
Other Treatment Options for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
If your spinal stenosis doesn’t respond well to pain medication, physical therapy, or steroid injections, you may be a good candidate for surgery. Many people are afraid of having spinal surgery, and while it is true that it can be dangerous, the results are often very beneficial as long as you choose a professional and reputable surgeon. You should always opt for a surgeon who is specialized in spinal surgery for the best results.
The aim of surgery for spinal stenosis is to create more space in the spinal canal. That way, the spinal cord will no longer be compressed by the surrounding ligaments and bones. By creating more space in the spinal canal and decompressing the spinal cord, the cord and the spinal nerves will no longer be inflamed, and your spinal stenosis pain should be greatly reduced.
Understanding Spinal Surgery
Surgery is one of the most reliable methods for fixing the problem of spinal stenosis and keeping it from getting any worse. When it comes to spinal stenosis surgery, there are actually several different types of surgery that may benefit you. For example, one type of surgery involves cutting away at a thickened ligament in the spinal canal.
By removing the excess part of the ligament, the spinal cord will have much more room and will no longer experience compression. However, this type of surgery may not be right for everyone because not everyone with spinal stenosis has a thickened spinal ligament. Another type of surgery involves carving away part of the spinal bone to allow more room for the spinal cord.
In the near future, non-surgical treatments such as stem cell treatments may be very effective for treating spinal stenosis.
Everything You Need to Know About Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis can be a serious and even debilitating problem for many people. It involves the narrowing of the spinal canal and the compression of the spinal cord and its surrounding nerves. This condition can cause severe pain that can make it difficult to lead a normal life.
By treating this condition with medication, physical therapy, steroid injections, or surgery, a person with spinal stenosis can get their normal life back. To learn more about spinal stenosis treatment, Maryland, contact us here.