Your spine is a complex network of bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves, and there’s not a lot of extra room in the tight space of your spinal column. So, if you experience inflammation in the area, or if your discs or vertebrae move out of position, or if any tissues thicken, then the space in your spinal column can narrow and press on your nerves, which can cause a painful back condition called spinal stenosis.
At Princeton Pain & Spine Institute in Lawrenceville and Edgewater, New Jersey, Dinash Yanamadula, MD, and our team are experts in relieving the pain of spinal stenosis and resolving the underlying issues that can cause the nerve compression. However, it’s far better to avoid the condition altogether if possible. That’s why we’ve compiled some tips to help you keep your back healthy.
If you follow these tips, you can go a long way toward keeping your back free from developing spinal stenosis:
Carrying extra weight puts a lot of excess pressure on your spine, especially the facet joints between each vertebrae. The constant stress can increase your risk of suffering a herniated disc or osteoarthritis, both of which can lead to spinal stenosis.
The stronger your back muscles are, the better able they’ll be to support your spine and ward off injuries that could lead to spinal stenosis. Daily exercise that involves cardio, weight lifting, and stretching can also help you keep your back in good shape.
Tobacco is a vasodilator, which means it constricts your blood vessels. By interfering with healthy blood flow to your spine, tobacco can lead to degenerative disc disease, which compromises the integrity of your vertebrae and narrows the spaces where your nerves enter and exit.
These openings, called foramina, are just wide enough to allow your nerves access. If they close up even just a little, you can have spinal stenosis.
Also, nicotine contains toxins that can rob the calcium from your bones. Over time, this can cause your bones to become weak and deteriorate faster than normal.
The way you sit and stand can make or break your back — literally. Long hours of hunching over a keyboard or standing with your spine out of alignment can add destructive amounts of pressure to your spine. This, in turn, can cause inflammation and disc problems, which can lead to spinal stenosis.
Dr. Yanamadula can give you some pointers on how to maintain proper posture to help keep your back out of danger.
If you think you might have spinal stenosis, there are some common symptoms you can look for. Spinal stenosis typically occurs in the neck or low back regions of the spine. Common signs include the following:
In extreme cases, spinal stenosis can also affect your organ function and cause you to lose bladder and bowel control.
Depending on the underlying cause of your spinal stenosis, surgery may be necessary, but there are more conservative steps you can take before reaching that point.
The first steps are to apply heat and cold therapy complimented by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Physical therapy can also help, as strengthening the supporting muscles can relieve the pressure, which, in turn, can help resolve the condition.
If the pain persists, Dr. Yanamadula may suggest an epidural steroid injection to bathe the compressed nerve in medication, which numbs the pain and reduces inflammation. This can reduce your need for medication and delay surgery, but it’s only a temporary fix. If needed, Dr. Yanamadula can refer you to a surgeon to treat your underlying condition.
To learn more about how to prevent or treat spinal stenosis, book an appointment online or over the phone with Princeton Pain & Spine Institute today.