You go to your doctor complaining about your back. You tell him you have back and leg pain. The doctor asks you if you have any numbness or tingling sensations and you say “yes, it’s annoying.” The doctor orders an X-ray and then tells you the results…you have spinal stenosis. You are given pain medication and told to rest. You schedule a follow up appointment in four weeks.
The above scenario is common. We have heard the same story hundreds of times. Our patients come to us because they want to resolve their pain naturally, without pain medications. Spinal stenosis is a typical diagnosis for back pain in an older adult. Stenosis means ‘narrowing’ and the holes of the vertebrae where the spinal nerves exit become smaller. When there is less room for the nerves to move they can become irritated or even compressed. Often if you can give the nerves a little more room the pain and irritation will go away.
People with spinal stenosis often feel better when they lie down or sit…their pain is worse in standing and sometimes with walking. If you have noticed that your pain goes away or gets better when you sit down after standing you might have spinal stenosis. When you flex or bend your spine those holes in your vertebrae open and give your spinal nerves more room.
There are some simple things you can do for spinal stenosis. Below are 3 tips to help you alleviate your pain and discomfort.
Tip 1. Frequent rest breaks
You may notice that you can go for a walk or stand up, but after 15 minutes you start to have an aching back with pain into the leg. When you sit down those symptoms start to go away. You keep your walks to 15 minutes because the pain stops you. The nerves get sensitive and your body/brain let’s you know that 15 minutes is all you can do. So next time you go for a walk stop at 10 minutes to take your break. You may find that if you take a break sooner that you can go for another walk for 10 minutes (total time of 20 minutes versus 15 minutes). Your nervous system will become less sensitive and over time you will find yourself able to walk longer than 15 minutes.
Tip 2. Flex your spine throughout the day
During the day take breaks to bend your spine forward. You might find bending to touch your toes, bending over in your seat while taking a rest break from work at the office, or getting into a child’s pose position before you go to bed are ways to reduce the discomfort in your back. You may want to try doing these every hour or as frequently as your body needs to keep your back feeling good during the day.
Tip 3. Stretch your muscles
You will find that stretching your leg and back muscles help to reduce tension around the painful regions of your spine. Less tension in the muscles can reduce the pressure placed on the nerves because the bones of your spine will not compress as much. Hamstring, quadricep, psoas, spinal extensors, glutes/piriformis, and your lats are great muscles to focus your attention on.
We know that you do not want to use pain medications or have injections and want to rid yourself of your pain naturally. We hope the tips above help you ease your discomfort, but if you find you are still frustrated by pain that is limiting you from staying active then it is time to seek a specialist. Physical therapists work with people who have spinal stenosis on a regular basis. Spinal stenosis can be treated effectively with conservative care. At Body Evolution we will help people like you all the time. We do it by creating an individualized plan specifically for you because we know each person is different. We will design a program of specific exercises to meet your body’s needs and use hands on therapies to help you feel better – fast.
Contact us and we will be happy to answer any of your questions. We look forward to talking with you.
I'm just a guy helping active adults and athletes frustrated by nagging aches and pains naturally return to a healthy lifestyle.