The best back pain relief will only be known if you seek medical help. This is particularly if you feel consistent pain that does not seem to improve no matter what you do at home. If you have had a bad back for several weeks, chances are that you have a spinal problem that needs to be investigated by a good spine specialist. This is so if your pain is affecting other parts of the body, including your legs. While there are several causes of persistent backache, we are going to focus on one only. This is spinal stenosis and it is a back issue that takes a longer time to develop.
What is spinal stenosis all about?
In medical terms, the word stenosis refers to anomalous narrowing of a body channel. So, spinal stenosis means narrowing of the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains spinal nerves and it is situated in the spinal canal. Although some people are born with conditions that make them prone to spinal stenosis, the majority develop it due to the natural aging process. The victims barely know they have stenosis in their spine until they feel severe back pain. Narrowing can affect one or more areas of the spine and trigger sciatica-like symptoms. And to know the affected parts of the spine, and offer the best back pain relief, a pain doctor must do some medical tests. If your pain is radiating, you will be advised to try sciatica treatment.
Types of stenosis
Any spine specialist can tell you that they treat two kinds of spinal stenosis more frequently. These are lumbar spinal stenosis and cervical stenosis. Though rarely, spine doctors also come across a third type called thoracic stenosis. Each is described as shown below:
- Lumbar spine stenosis – In this kind, the nerve roots in the lower back area get pinched or compressed. This causes symptoms that would make you want to seek sciatica treatment. These are tingling, numbness, weakness and pain sensations that travel from the lower back to the buttock, back of thigh and/or lower leg. Your spine specialist will want carry out proper investigation to learn whether your symptoms might be related to sacroiliac joint problems. Sacroiliac joint tends to cause sciatica-like symptoms as well, although the radiating pain hardly ever goes beyond the back of thigh.
Differentiating sciatica pain due to spinal stenosis and sacroiliac joint pain will be one of your back pain doctor’s goals. Lumbar spine stenosis has a correlation to arterial vascular insufficiency because both health problems cause claudication. This refers to leg pain when one tries to walk. So the provider of the best back pain relief will order diagnostic tests to be done so as to show whether your blood flow is normal or abnormal. If no abnormalities are found, the spine specialist will then do special tests to find out whether you have spinal stenosis or another lower back problem.
If it is indeed confirmed that you have spinal stenosis of the lower back, your symptoms will be referred to as neurogenic claudication. Generally, lumbar stenosis causes pain and/or weakness when walking and relief when one sits down. But if one walks while learning forward, such as when pushing a shopping cart, pain due to stenosis is bearable. If lumbar spinal stenosis at your L4-L5 and/or L3-L4 is not discovered early, it will worsen and affect other vertebral segments of the lower back area.
- Cervical stenosis – Cervical spine is the one that keeps your neck stable. If the spinal cord in this area gets compressed, pain will felt in the neck. Compression occurs if there is cervical spine stenosis and can lead to severe symptoms like paralysis and serious weakness. Invasive treatment may be needed to get rid of myelopathy (spinal cord compression) due to cervical stenosis.
- Thoracic stenosis – This is less common compared to the two kinds described above. The thoracic section of your spine refers to the middle or upper back area. This area has vertebrae that are attached to your rib cage, making it the strongest and the most stable part of your spine. As spinal stenosis is a degenerative condition that affects weaker and less stables parts of the spine, it will rarely affect your thoracic spine. But, if you are feeling pain in your middle or upper back area, have a spine specialist check it the soonest possible.
Spinal stenosis and spine degeneration
Spinal stenosis symptoms do not become apparent until people are in their fifth decade of life. However, this is when spinal stenosis is age-related and not congenital. Narrowing of spine due to aging is a slow process that barely shows immediate symptoms. As effects of spinal stenosis increase after fifty years of age, most victims will typically start to bend forward and reduce their level of activity. That’s because leaning forward makes the pain more tolerable when walking. If you suspect this condition, get the best back pain relief soon.
What exactly does spinal stenosis do to your spine?
Whether you have cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine stenosis, it will make your back hurt so badly. First of all, the spinal canal and the nerve roots within it have enough space to occupy before the onset of spinal stenosis. When it is already affecting the spine, other health issues can arise, such as osteoarthritis. This disease is known to cause bony growths that can narrow the space for the spinal cord even more. The spinal cord is designed to end right at the uppermost part of your lumbar spine (at your T1-L1 level) which is known as cauda equina.
This is where your spinal nerves exit the spinal cord individually and travel down your central canal before exiting the spinal canal via the neuro-foramen. While it is rare for spinal stenosis to affect the cauda equina area, it has been reported before. The condition is usually called cauda equina syndrome and it is a medical emergency that your spine specialist should know immediately.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis
If you want to know if you have this condition and needs to seek the best back pain relief the soonest possible, check if you have these symptoms:
- Pain that comes and goes rather than being continuous
- Pain that emerges at fifty years old or beyond.
- Backache that develops when you are doing given activities or holding certain body postures.
- Feeling better when you flex your body forward or when you take a seat or lie down.
If you have lumbar spine stenosis, there is likely to be more symptoms that will cause your spine doctor to offer you sciatica treatment. Neurogenic claudication, as aforesaid, can happen due to spinal stenosis in your lower back. This will cause pain in legs that will only disappear if the victim rests in bed, sits down or leans forward. If leg pain is due to vascular claudication, the best back pain relief is to stop walking. While there might be numbness and tingling accompanying your leg pain due to lumbar stenosis, real weakness will not be felt.
The spine specialist will either offer a CT scan with myelogram or an MRI scan. Sometimes both scans are done to produce a more conclusive result. If a plain CT scan is carried out, it will only identify the cause of stenosis— including bony growths. Unfortunately, it cannot show things like disc herniation, ligament hypertrophy, disc bulges and other soft tissue causes of spinal stenosis. As a result, the best back pain relief clinics will use both CT and MRI scans to identify all the causes of spinal stenosis. There are different types of MRI scans that are performed in some spine treatment centers: flexion extension, upright and spine MRIs. The ones that will be done on you will depend on the spine specialist you select. Sometimes a selective nerve root block is used to identify stenosis in the cervical spine area. If your doctor wants to find out whether a given symptom is a result of neuropathy instead of radiculopathy, he or she will make use of electrodiagnostic studies.
Treating spinal stenosis
The providers of the best back pain relief can use a wide range of treatment options after discovering that you have spinal stenosis. These ones include the following:
- Epidural injections –These offer a temporary solution to symptoms of spinal stenosis. Relieve from pain can be achieved for a while and you can go on with your life as usual. If your risk for osteoporosis-related fractures is higher, your spine specialist might consider another option.
- Medication –These are drugs that have anti-inflammatory effects. When used carefully, narcotic drugs can be so helpful as far as solving severe nerve pain caused by spinal stenosis complications. These are sometimes prescribed with muscle relaxers and drugs that desensitize nerves. Still, anti-depressants can be offered to cure back pain and/or leg pain. It goes without saying that medicines have side effects and some of these can be serious. If your drugs for treating spinal stenosis are causing terrible side effects, call your spine specialist immediately and inform them.
- Working out –Every best back pain relief clinic provides an exercise program that would best assist a spinal stenosis patient get better. While these workouts will not eliminate the root cause of your stenosis, it can get you out of bed and enhance your healing process. Your spine specialist will recommend a great physical therapist that can create a supervised exercise program that could work for you. After learning how to exercise for spinal stenosis, you can transition to your own exercise routine. Just keep it slow at first and as you build enough strength and tolerance, increase your activity level.
- Modify your activity level –Severe backache due to spinal stenosis complications can be treated by doing away with some strenuous activities. To feel more comfortable, flex forward when walking or doing something. For instance, you can stoop forward when walking, sit in a recliner chair instead of a straight back one, and ride stationery biking while leaning forward rather than walking upright and so on.
The above-mentioned treatment techniques are the most conservative around. Some victims of spinal stenosis will do just fine trying them and others will not notice a difference. If you try these techniques unsuccessfully, your spine specialist will mostly likely recommend spinal surgery.
Spinal stenosis surgery
Surgery will be done soon after your best back pain relief doctor recommends it. However, surgery will only be done after accurately identifying the areas of narrowing along your spine. This will ensure that every affected part is treated via surgery and that the outcome is perfect. Elective spinal stenosis may be skipped, if there are several areas that need surgery. No matter the type of surgery your spine specialist opts for, you can be sure of feeling much better afterwards. Surgery can boost your level of activity, especially decompression surgery, and enhance your quality of life. The main thing is that surgical treatment for spinal stenosis can be effective for the right candidate with the right diagnosis. Once the narrowing on nerves is removed cautiously, back pain due to stenosis can be diminished significantly. Additionally, if spondylolisthesis appears along with the narrowing of the spine, the best back pain relief expert may consider doing the more comprehensive fusion surgery.
Unless you were born with a congenital abnormality that might trigger spinal stenosis early in your life, it is a condition that will mostly appear in your old age. Most people notice symptoms of spinal stenosis at fifty years and overtime they adopt a new walking style that entails flexing forward. This is known to make the pain better, although it won’t cure it. It is wiser to call the best back pain relief therapist as soon as possible if you have spinal stenosis as they will carry out proper testing to identify the parts of the spine affected by stenosis and determine the right treatment therapy. If simple cures can help, the sciatica treatment clinic will offer spinal surgery. After surgery and recovery, your day to day life will get better.