Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of your spinal canal. When this happens, your spinal cord and nerves can become compressed. It is one of the most common types of spinal cord conditions, and it is typically seen in older adults. Here are some ways physical therapy and other conservative treatments can help manage your spinal stenosis so that you can avoid surgery.
Physical therapy can help restore mobility, decrease inflammation, and relieve the pain of spinal stenosis. In addition to pain, other symptoms that may be relieved by physical therapy treatments include weakness in your upper back and extremities, leg heaviness, numbness and tingling sensations in your hips and buttocks, and low back pain.
Your physical therapist will teach you a series of exercises to help promote circulation to the affected areas of your spine. In addition to flexion exercises, your therapist or chiropractor may recommend that you ride a stationary bicycle or walk on a treadmill. While therapy can help restore flexibility, strength, and range of motion, it may take weeks or even months before you regain the full function of your back, arms, and legs.
Other Conservative Measures
Chiropractic massage can help enhance blood flow, soothe sore back muscles, relieve nerve pain, and improve sleep. People who have spinal stenosis often suffer from insomnia because of pain. Massage also helps release certain brain chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine. These neurotransmitters can decrease your perception of pain, help suppress systemic inflammation, and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression. People suffering from the chronic pain of spinal stenosis often feel helpless and hopeless.
Therapeutic massage is a great alternative to prescription pain medications, which can cause side effects such as drowsiness, fatigue, blurred vision, nausea, confusion, and gastrointestinal problems. Your chiropractor may also recommend water exercises and spinal adjustments to treat your symptoms; however, if your pain is severe, he or she may suggest bed rest until your symptoms improve.
While you are recovering, take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen to keep yourself comfortable. Taking ibuprofen an hour or so before your physical therapy sessions are set to begin may help relieve your pain and improve your range of motion while you are doing your exercises.
If you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, consider the above conservative treatment options. When you work with both your physical therapist and chiropractic physician to manage your condition, you are more likely to enjoy a more favorable prognosis.