Unfortunately, spinal stenosis cannot be cured, and nothing can stop or reverse the progression of spinal cord damage caused by aging. However, the condition responds well to conservative treatments in most cases.
With the help of physical therapy and medications, a person with spinal stenosis can lead a normal life with improved mobility and better quality of life.
To avoid permanent disability and live a symptom-free life, try to keep your lower back as healthy as possible by maintaining a healthy weight, good posture, and a regular exercise regimen.
What causes spinal stenosis?
In most cases, spinal stenosis is caused by:
- Arthritic changes: As you age, normal wear and tear on the skeletal system slowly causes narrowing of the spine.
- Osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease: Degenerative changes with age can cause:
- Discs to become less spongy
- Decrease in disc height
- Bulging of the hardened disc into the spinal canal
- Appearance of bony spurs
- Thickening of ligaments
- Reduction in joint fluid
Other causes may include:
How is spinal stenosis treated?
- Lifestyle changes:
- Posture management
- Exercise and stretching
- Losing weight
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen for temporary relief from pain
- Antidepressants such as tricyclic amitriptyline for pain
- Anti-inflammatory and analgesics for pain and swelling
- Epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve tingling and numbness.
- Physical therapy:
- Helps stabilize the spine, improves mobility, and increases flexibility
- Builds endurance
- Typically done for 4-6 weeks
If nonsurgical treatment fails to improve symptoms, or if the condition progresses, your neurosurgeon will determine the best surgical option for you depending on age, severity of the condition, and overall health issues.
- Decompressive laminectomy: Laminae (roof) of the vertebrae are removed to create more space for the nerves.
- Laminotomy: An opening is created in the bone to relieve pressure on the nerve roots.
- Foraminotomy: The bony exit for the nerve root is enlarged.
- Medial facetectomy: An overgrown part of the bony joint is removed.
- Anterior lumbar interbody fusion: Degenerated disc is removed through the lower abdomen.
- Posterior lumbar interbody fusion: Degenerated disc is removed through the skin on the back.
- Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion: Degenerative discs and posterior bone of the spinal canal are removed.
- Posterolateral fusion: A bone graft is placed on the back and sides of the spine.
- Instrumented fusion: Hooks, screws, and other devices are used to stabilize the fusion.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Lumbar-Spinal-Stenosis
Wheeler T. Spinal Stenosis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/spinal-stenosis
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/lumbar-spinal-stenosis
American College of Rheumatology. Spinal Stenosis. https://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Spinal-Stenosis
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