We all have heard these complaints from our grandparents – back and neck pain, numbness, weakness, tingling, etc. Orthopaedists often use the term ‘spinal stenosis’ to explain these symptoms.
So, what is spinal stenosis? How common is this affliction? And how do we treat it at home?
Let’s discuss this now.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
As we age, so do our bones. The wear and tear over the years lead to degeneration of our bones leading to narrowing of the spinal canal. This degenerative condition is called spinal stenosis.
Our spine is formed of vertebrae stacked upon each other along with muscles, ligaments, nerves, and intervertebral disks. As we grow older, the space around the spinal cord narrows placing additional pressure on nerves and muscles. This leads to pain in various parts of the body such as the lower back, back, neck, shoulder joints, and legs.
How common is spinal stenosis and what are its symptoms?
According to OrthoInfo, as many as 95% of people by the age of 50 face degeneration in the spine. Spinal stenosis is very common in senior citizens above 60 years of age.
Symptoms to watch out for once you hit 50 are:
- Pain in your lower back, neck, and/or legs
- Burning sensation, tingling and/or numbness in your lower back, neck and/or legs
- Weakness or clumsiness in your arm, hand, leg and/or foot
- Increased pain due to prolonged actions such as standing for long periods, walking/ brisk walking, etc.
In severe cases, the spinal stenosis may even lead to loss of function in the hands, problems with balance and loss of control with bladder/ bowel movements.
Are there any natural remedies to treat spinal stenosis? How do we treat it at home?
There is no cure for spinal stenosis, no treatment that can reverse the degenerative process like spinal stenosis. However, the symptoms such as pain can be relieved and we can try our best to lower the rate of degeneration of our bones.
- Weight Loss: Extra weight will put pressure on our backs. One of the first actions to be considered on receiving a diagnosis of spinal stenosis is to cut down on our weight in a healthy and planned manner and reduce pressure on our spine.
- Heat/ Cold Applications: Applying heat will relax muscles and relieve joint pain. Applying ice will reduce swelling and inflammation. You can choose to apply heat or ice alternatively or choose the one which affects you most.
- Exercise: Consult with your doctor/ physiotherapist and choose an exercise plan that does not put additional strain on your body but also helps with spinal stenosis. A 30-minute daily walk will go a long way in reducing dull aches/ heaviness. Stretching and core strengthening exercises are an excellent way to maintain your spinal cord. Go to a physiotherapist until you have visible relief. Yoga is seen as an effective way to stretch your back, improve the health of muscles and increase the flexibility of your body.
- Chiropractic treatment: An interesting and upcoming alternative treatment method is chiropractic treatment which seeks to increase range of motion. It is designed to restore the natural motion of the spine. However, there is very little research available on how useful chiropractic treatment is for relieving pain and increasing the fluidity of the spine.
- Massage: Deep tissue massage is reportedly effective in releasing accumulated tension in muscles, tendons and ligaments. This will release pressure on the spine and reduce pain. Plus, massage feels very good.
- Maintain proper posture: Posture has a lasting impact on your body. Excessive sitting will place pressure on your spinal discs. Poor posture can lead to back problems and pain. You have to maintain proper posture, stand and go for short walks when sitting for long durations and do neck, arm and leg exercises to help loosen up your muscles.
- Make some diet changes: Some certain foods and drinks can help with pain relief and maintaining healthy bones and body. Turmeric milk and ginger green tea are anti-inflammatory drinks and regular consumption may help reduce back pain. Foods such as chia seeds, lentils and beans, kale, broccoli, spinach and salmon are extremely useful for maintaining spinal health.
Age and the accompanying degeneration are irreversible. However, regular exercise, a healthy lifestyle, healthy food choices and long and undisturbed sleep will go a long way to ensure your spine remains in the best possible condition for as long as possible.
Amanda Wingfield is a certified Diabetes Management Specialist who also holds an MD in Endocrinology, with certifications from ABIM and AACE. She has a decade of experience serving thousands of patients through her independent practice and has been working in the capacity of an expert diabetes consultant for the past 4 years. Ms. Wingfield is revered by her regular readers for her in-depth research and evidence-based analysis of diabetes medications, supplements, and treatments, and her highly critical style of writing.