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Physical Therapy for Spinal Stenosis Series (Part 1)

by | Jul 29, 2022 | Back Pain Buffalo, Back Physical Therapy, Neck & Back Injuries, Neck Injuries, Neck Physical Therapy, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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What is Spinal Stenosis?

One of the more common spinal conditions seen in physical therapy is spinal stenosis.  Spinal stenosis is a narrowing within the vertebrae of the spinal column that results in too much pressure on the spinal cord (central stenosis) or nerves (lateral stenosis). Spinal stenosis may occur in the neck or in the lower back.  Those suffering from spinal stenosis effecting the neck (cervical stenosis) can report local neck pain in less severe cases but can also include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness into the arms when more advanced.  In very advanced cases these complaints can also extend into the torso and legs resulting in loss of balance and even bowel / bladder dysfunction.  When spinal stenosis is diagnosed in the lower back (lumbar stenosis) patients will report local back pain but can experience sciatica, numbness, tingling, and weakness into the legs.  As in cervical stenosis, those with most severe symptoms can also report instability when walking and even abnormal bowel / bladder function.  When diagnosed early, physical therapy can be very effective in resolving complaints related to spinal stenosis

The most common causes of spinal stenosis are related to the aging process in the spine:

Osteoarthritis is a deterioration of the cartilage between joints. In response to this damage, the body often forms additional bone (called “bone spurs”) to try to support the area. These bone spurs might cause pressure on the nerves at the point where the nerves exit the spinal canal.

Normal aging can result in a flattening of the disks (called degenerative disc disease) that provide space between each set of vertebrae. This narrowed space allows less room for the nerve to exit from the spinal cord.  Spinal injuries, diseases of the bone (such as Paget disease), spinal tumors, and thickening of certain spinal ligaments also may lead to spinal stenosis.  Disc herniations can also result in stenosis. 

In most cases, symptoms of spinal stenosis can be effectively managed with physical therapy and other conservative treatments.  Physical therapists will prescribe specific stretching and strengthening exercises to relieve the pressure placed on the spinal column.  In some instances, your physical therapy treatment may require your therapist to manually assist you with certain stretching exercises to achieve the fastest results.  Only the most severe cases of spinal stenosis need surgery or spinal injections.

If you think that you may need physical therapy to address your spinal stenosis contact the PT’s at Buffalo Back and Neck Physical Therapy.  We are the area’s leading experts in the treatment of back and neck pain. 


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