Spinal Stenosis: 5 Effective Treatments

In simple terms, spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spine. This is typically a gradual process that occurs with age. As your spinal canal narrows, your spinal cord and nerves have limited space, and the pressure causes pain, numbness, and tingling.

Doctors classify spinal stenosis according to where it occurs in your spine. There are two types of spinal stenosis:

If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, effective treatments can help you feel and function better. Here at Carolinas Center for Advanced Management of Pain, our team of pain management physicians and physical rehabilitation specialists routinely diagnose and treat spinal stenosis.

About spinal stenosis

In most cases, spinal stenosis is the result of changes to the spinal canal caused by wear-and-tear related to arthritis. For example, bulging discs and arthritic spurs compress nerves that travel through your spinal canal.

Pain, numbness, and tingling when walking or standing are the most common symptoms. This often causes patients to limit their mobility to avoid pain. In severe cases, spinal stenosis can result in permanent nerve damage.

Several effective treatments are available. Here are five common approaches.

1. Physical therapy

Our trained therapists can create a treatment plan that improves the range of motion and flexibility in your spine. This helps strengthen and stabilize your spine to reduce pain and helps you feel better.

Many patients with stenosis are less active due to pain, yet getting moving can help. Physical therapy is a gentle treatment employed with great care. It requires time, patience, commitment, and consistency.

2. Steroid injections

Steroid injections work to reduce inflammation and relieve pressure. This treatment often provides rapid pain relief. The medicine is delivered to the epidural space around your spinal cord, with the goal of relieving pain so you can resume your normal physical activities and physical therapy program.

3. Weight loss

Being overweight is a major risk factor for arthritis, as excess weight places added stress on your joints. If you’re overweight, trimming excess pounds can help relieve pressure and pain. Your provider may discuss steps you can take to lighten the load on your spine. Even losing a modest amount of weight can go a long way in relieving pain.

4. Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are usually the first line of drug treatment for spinal stenosis. Your provider may recommend pain relievers such as:

If your symptoms aren’t responding well enough to OTC medicines, your provider may recommend prescription medication for better pain management. A short course of oral corticosteroid medication can help reduce inflammation.

For patients experiencing nerve pain, your doctor may recommend nerve medication such as gabapentin. This prescription medication helps reduce nerve pain and symptoms such as tingling and numbness and helps restore function.  

5. Surgery

Most cases of spinal stenosis can be managed with noninvasive treatments. When conservative treatments fail — if your condition is severe and significantly impacts your quality of life — surgical intervention is an effective option.

The goal of spinal surgery is to reduce pressure on your nerves. In a laminectomy, the back part of the affected vertebrae, the lamina, is removed. In a laminotomy, only a portion of the lamina is removed to relieve localized pressure. A laminoplasty, performed only on the cervical spine, involves opening the vertebrae in your neck and inserting a metal bridge to keep the section open.

If you’re experiencing lower back or neck pain, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our interventional pain management physicians. We’re dedicated to helping patients recover from injuries, manage degenerative conditions, and reduce their pain so they feel and function better. We have multiple locations throughout North and South Carolina. Call the office nearest you to schedule an appointment.

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