Spinal Stenosis – All you need to Know

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Stenosis~ As we start to age our bodies begin to show the signs of wear and tear.  For runners or athletes of any sport or season, this wear and tear can happen at a different pace than someone less active. Nonetheless, your body will change no matter what.

Sometimes, the body gets weaker and can no longer perform basic movements. Skeletal muscle, also known as lean muscle, keeps our muscles attached to the bone.  As the aging process continues this system starts to deteriorate.  This is one of the reasons our bodies start to look flabby, almost as if our skin and muscles are trying to get away from us!  Tissue can no longer heal as quickly as it could before or as compared to younger person.  So even though you run a lot, every day or every chance you can, there is still the likelihood of flab forming. Lean muscle ages and tends not to respond it did for you years ago.

When our bones start to lose their density or thickness they get weaker and even may become brittle. This loss of bone density is what makes the bones frail and leads to the breakage.  As the process continues, the result is a well-known disease called osteoporosis.  Changes in bone, collapse of vertebrae, and lack of self-care all play a role and may lead to a severe, painful condition known as spinal stenosis.  To help runners of all styles and experiences better understand the spinal stenosis injury, this article will address the condition, the diagnostic practices of it, treatment and prevention.  Please don’t be misguided and think that you are too young or too active to consider issues related to osteoporosis.

Now is the time to think about osteoporosis, spinal stenosis and ways to combat its onset.

What it is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal Stenosis, also known as Canal stenosis, is a common medical condition where the space between the spinal cavity starts to reduces. This medical condition is usually associated with individuals that are 50 years of age and older; however, there are some individuals who are born with a smaller spinal canal. Recent studies show that middle aged adults are also developing spinal stenosis at a faster rate than researchers previously believed. It’s important to note that spinal stenosis affects the entirety of the spine. So individuals who suffer from spinal stenosis can feel pain in their neck down to their lower back all the way down to their leg.

Think about how often we can injure our backs and spines these days. Look around at all the people hunching their shoulders and leaning over awkwardly with their mobile device in hand. Yes that tweet you are about to send can have a long term impact on your posture and then on your spine. Is the Facebook feed you are reading being done with the proper body angle in mind? Questions that need to be asked in today’s digital media environment.

The spine is a series of bones, medically called vertebrates, that is crucial for posture, walking, running, and performing activities of daily living. Connected to the spine is the central nervous system that deliver information throughout the body.  For those individuals who suffer with spinal stenosis they often feel pain, numbness or a tingling feeling in their lower backs, shoulder, arms and down to their legs.

 

 

Those who suffer from spinal stenosis have their vertebrates compressed. The space between the vertebrae start to get smaller and causes the nerves to be pinched. This is one reason why some people feel numbness or in more severe cases start to develop slight levels of paralysis.

Often when we talk about spinal injuries and sports the focus is on collisions between players and objects. That is not the case with spinal stenosis as it can form without one singular car accident like collision.

There are three main forms of spinal stenosis that occur in the body:

  • Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – This is the most common of all the forms. This affects the majority of people who suffer from spinal stenosis and pain is felt greatly in the lower back region.Those suffering from issue this can also feel weakness and numbness in the legs. Often lumbar spinal stenosis has its roots in degenerative arthritis.
  • Thoracic Spinal Stenosis – This is the rarest form and those who suffer from this form experience pain in the middle and upper region of the spine. A degenerative condition, thoracic spinal stenosis can include any of the 12 thoracic vertebrae (T1 to T12). This can also lead to a connected problem of the aforementioned lumbar spinal stenosis.
  • Cervical spinal stenosis – For individuals who suffer with this form, pain is felt around the neck region and can lead to some very serious health issues later on such as extreme weakness, numbness, peripheral neuropathy, and paralysis.The cervical spine is comprised of seven vertebrae located between the head and the chest. Bowel and bladder control issues can result from cervical spinal stenosis. Often cervical spinal stenosis results from the aging process and the breakdown of tissue; however there are cases rare cases of this occurring at birth because of the way the bones formed in the womb.

Herniated-Disc-thoracic-Spine

What are the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

For many individuals these symptoms start small and escalate quickly into severe, debilitating health issues. These symptoms should be identified early for runners who don’t want to see their workout routine become limited. The signs and symptoms to watch for are:

  • severe neck pain
  • back pain, especially in the lower region of the back
  • sciatica which is a shooting pain that travels down the leg (the pain is initiated in the lower back)
  • foot pain
  • difficultly in standing upright and standing after being in a seated position
  • easy to lose one’s balance
  • involuntary use of bladder and bowel
  • nerves are weakened and diminished
  • numbness, in severe case possible paralysis
  • pain in shoulders, arms and hands
  • pain when having to bend over or lift objects

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal Stenosis is caused by a several factors that can easily be prevented. Individuals who develop spinal stenosis tend to live a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise, improper diet, many hours sitting down or lying down are some of the reasons people develop spinal stenosis; however, these are not the only reasons.

So even if you are a runner, you need to keep on reading.

Osteoarthritis – Arthritis is a major factor in the development of spinal stenosis. There are many forms of arthritis that individuals can develop. For the purposes of this article, arthritis of the spinal cord is presented.

  • Symptoms of Osteoarthritis –is a disease of the bone, swelling, creaking and warmth can be felt around the arthritic area with pain and stiffness coupled with loss of cartilage (which causes the friction of the bones).
  • Osteoarthritis of the spine – is a form of arthritis that is a degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis of the spine is the breaking down of the cartilage triggering inflammation of the  vertebrate to swell and lower back pain.  As time progresses, there is  deterioration of the cartilage which cushions the top of the bone. This wear and tear causes swelling and pain which in turn can lead to a herniated disc and other back health conditions.
  • The symptoms of Osteoarthritis of the Spine – include numbness, tingling sensation, and severe pain due to bony spurs being formed around the arthritic spine.

Herniated/ Bulging discs- Our spines are made up of small bones called vertebrate. Vertebrates are small, bony discs that act as shock absorbers within the area we call the back and help the spine remain flexible. When a disc is damaged it can become ruptured resulting in a herniated disc.

  • What causes this to happen? As we age, the spine fluid starts to dry out and lose flexibility and the ability to pivot. Wear and tear, injuries, accidents, falls all take their toll.  If a hairline fracture or crack occurs due to an injury, the liquid gel that is in the spine leaks out causing the disc to bulge out.

Tumors- Abnormal growths can occur around the spine. These growths can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and are known as spinal tumors. As the pressure builds, they can contribute to developing spinal stenosis. There are three types of spinal tumors:

  1. Vertebral Column Tumors are growths that affect the vertebrae.
  2. Extramedullary Tumors happen outside the dura mater tissue.
  3. Intramedullary Tumors happen inside the dura, but outside of the spinal cord.

Paget’s disease- is a chronic condition in which the bones break down and formation of new bone is altered. It is not known what causes Paget disease; however, it is theorized that genetics may play a role.

  • Some symptoms of Paget’s Disease include pain in the bones and joints, headaches and hearing loss, pressure on nerves (causing tingling sensation, numbness, weakness in muscles and severe pain), and curvature of the spine.

Sciatica- is a nagging or sharp pain that begins in the lower back region that travels down to the leg following the sciatic nerve. The nerve is a large nerve cord that extends from the lower back down to the leg. This is another injury often associated with people over the age of 50, but it can attack younger and active people as well.

  • Symptoms of Sciatica- include lower back pain, weakness, numbness, difficulty moving the legs, persistent pain in a certain region of the lower back and leg, and shooting pain that makes it strenuous to stand.

 

Sciatica-Featured

Risk Factors of Spinal Stenosis

There are several risk factors common among individuals in the development of this condition.

  • Incontinence is the lack of voluntary control over urination and defection.
  • Partial or full paralysis – The devastating  condition will impact many lives. As numbness and weakness progresses the result may be mild level to full blown paralysis as nerve compression and damage continue.
  • Sexual dysfunction – The spine is a highway for nerve signals to be sent to the brain. When they become damaged, the neurological pathway gets altered. Signals sent from certain parts of the body are no longer received by the brain; therefore, our bodies do not behave the way we wish them to. Any pain or issues to the spine and neck will certainly limit sex drive for both males and females. Essentially with a spinal issue, all aspects of your life are limited, including sexual activity.

 

© Sport the library/Tom Putt Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games Athletics – Patricia Flavel (AUS) at finish line

The Case of Jarvis Jones

Yes many cases of spinal stenosis occur from a sedentary lifestyle but don’t tell that to NFL linebacker Jarvis Jones. The current member of the Arizona Cardinals and former star for the Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the more famous cases of spinal stenosis in athletes.

Jones was one of the country’s top high school football players and played as a freshmen in 2009 at the University of Southern California (USC). During a game that season he made a tackle and felt pain in the neck area that required medical attention. Team doctors diagnosed him with spinal stenosis and forbade him from going back on the field.

Since USC would not allow him to play, Jones transferred to the University of Georgia where he was cleared to play.  Jones wound up playing two seasons at Georgia relatively injury free. However, the spinal stenosis was an issue that NFL teams studied extensively before drafting him. The Steelers took him 17th overall in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but if it was not for his connection to spinal stenosis, it would have been much higher.

As another sign that spinal stenosis can impact those who are not sedentary,  Marcus McNeil, Michael Irvin, Sterling Sharpe  and Chris Samuels all had their NFL careers cut short because of spinal stenosis.

Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis

What can you expect from your doctor during a visit to discuss back and spine issues?  There are three major imaging tests that the healthcare provide can order to confirm a spinal stenosis diagnosis.

  • X- Rays- use a small amount of radiation that passes through the body and captures an image of the inside. This is helpful in pinpointing whether a bone is fractured, compressed, or broken.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)- MRI is a test that doesn’t use radiation, rather it uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio waves. MRIs are able to reveal problems that X-Rays and CT Scans might miss.There are two different formats or types of MRI machines patients can use to get their results. One is the traditional Closed unit which completely covers the person inside a tube. This can cause some anxiety and claustrophobia for some patients.  Even someone who has never felt the ill effects of being completely enclosed can feel some level of claustrophobia inside an MRI machine.The fan and the ticking or tapping sounds a patient hears inside the MRI machine may also create a level of psychological discomfort.The other unit is an Open MRI which is essentially a large ring patients pass through instead of being stationery inside a tube. The open style should prevent any issues of someone feeling trapped or cramped inside a small space.Open units used to be uncommon since they were very expensive. That has changed as many radiology businesses now offer the option of using an Open MRI.Especially for someone who feels the effects of spine and neck issues, consult with the radiology center prior to your visit if an open unit is available.

Herniated-Disc-x-ray-imaging

  • CT Myelogram- is perhaps the most useful way of trying to find out if you have developed spinal stenosis. This process involves using an X-Ray and a special dye called contrast material. What this method looks for are tumors, infections and any complications in the spine. One disadvantage of this method is the radiation exposure and/or the special dye can cause an allergic reaction. CT Myelograms specifically search for:

 

Treatments

For the weekend runner or athlete, much of the information presented below in this article will help you learn more about spinal stenosis. There is an unexpected consequence of dealing with spinal stenosis for more competitive athletes, particularly the ones who play contact sports (as in the case of Jarvis Jones).

Many athletes and runners with spinal stenosis will participate in their active years without pain and symptoms. It is a basically not a problem if you don’t know it is a problem. Out of sight, out of mind. But when an athlete feels the pain and is required to seek out a physician’s input, the bad news about having spinal stenosis can be brought to the forefront.

Doctors then must decide when an athlete is able to resume full participation and contact.  According to the medical literature there is no documented relationship between someone with spinal stenosis being a high risk candidate for complete quadriplegia. Doctors usually are conservative since they don’t want their patients to be put in a possible dangerous situation. That is why it is paramount for the athlete and the doctor to work in conjunction with each other to determine the proper course of action.

Keep in mind, there are various medical and holistic treatments that one can select to help reduce the pain you feel. These treatments only help to reduce the pain, not completely eliminate the pain.  This is why so many people, deal with lingering neck and back issues.

For runners, spinal stenosis can hinder the neck and back while the bottom portion of the body (knees, ankles, feet) deal with the issues that arise from constant pounding on the ground.

On the other hand for an athlete who is accustomed to playing more regular contact sports but then is diagnosed with spinal stenosis, running may be a good option to stay fit without the physical toll on the spine and neck. It is best to start out running on a track or a flat surface. For those will spinal issues, running on trails with their natural obstacles may create more harm than good.

Once again as a reminder, the older you get, expect to deal with spine and neck issues as you age. There is no way around it, no matter how much you run or workout prior during your active years.

There are medical and holistic treatments that one can select to help reduce the pain you feel. These treatments only help to reduce the pain, not completely eliminate the pain.  Medical Treatments that are available include:

Medication –There are medications individuals can take to help alleviate the pain temporarily such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen, just to name a few. This is perhaps the most common method of trying to deal with spinal stenosis; however,  it is not the most effective, as individuals can become dependent on this form of treatment. Overuse of these products can also create stomach pain and nausea. If you are dealing with spinal stenosis, these products are nothing more than a stopgap solution.

Spondylolisthesis-medication-treatment-nsaid-ibuprofen-naproxen

Corticosteroid injections- Cortisone is a steroid that has become a treatment for those who have arthritis. The drug helps to lower inflammation in individuals and helps to reduce the pain they feel. The advantage of having an injection is quick pain relief. However, there are some disadvantages and risks which include:

  • Infections, the body might react negatively towards the shot
  • Shrinkage and lightening of the color of the skin
  • Aggravation of inflammation (Injection Flare)
  • Pain associated with the obtuse needle entering the body

Anesthetics- are injections that can stop the pain. It is injected into the spinal area and nerve root. The results are that this injection completely blocks pain from the region. Nevertheless there are numerous disadvantages to this treatment as well. They include changes or alterations in:

Dietary Consumption – The phrase we are what we eat is a very poignant adage. The quality of food we eat is a major factor in guiding our overall health. If our diet consists of a lot of processed food and trans fats that is a sure way to developing not just one form of a chronic disorder but multiple chronic disorders. Going on an anti-inflammatory diet is a great way to help reduce the pain of the spinal stenosis and potentially prevent it. Having a healthy diet along with exercise is a sure way to keep the body at maximum performance. List of foods to stay away from because they cause inflammation, along with other negative health factors:

  • Processed Food
  • Trans fat
  • Fried Food
  • White sugar and sweets
  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Wheat Products
  • Foods containing Gluten
  • Alcohol

Runners-Guide-Stress-Fracture-plant-based-diet

It is important to have a diet plan that incorporates:

  • Fatty Fish (for those who still want to eat meat)- Salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines.
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh herbs (oregano, basil, thyme)
  • Dark Greens
  • Whole Grain
  • Garlic and Onions
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Nuts (Almonds and Walnuts)
  • Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Chocolate that is at least 70 percent pure cocoa (limited amounts)
  • Tomatoes

Other additions to the diet that can help a person deal with inflammation and resulting pain include the daily intake of baby aspirin.  This common over the counter anti platelet medication with its smaller dose for an adult can help deal with pain and serve as anti-inflammatory.  Daily baby aspirin therapy is a routine starting to gain more traction in the medical field, however one should consult a physician before making this part of their daily diet. Side effects of baby aspirin therapy include upset stomach and bowel issues.

Another popular dietary addition to help deal with pain and inflammation is turmeric.  This spice commonly found in Asian food is probably something you have already eaten, especially if you are fond of curry or Indian food. The root of the turmeric plant has long been considered an effective holistic medicinal source by eastern cultures.  Inside the root is a chemical known as curcumin (yellow in color) which is often used to help color foods.

Curcumin is considered to be an effective way to reduce swelling and pain so those suffering from arthritis, sciatica, irritable bowel syndrome, and skin inflammations (among others) have found some success with including more of it in their daily diets.

If turmeric itself cannot be added into your diet, there are plenty of turmeric extracts available on the market. These can easily be purchased at drug and grocery stores.  Even though there are plenty of options, for the best results, look at the label before purchasing. Make sure you buy a container of turmeric extract that contains at minimum 95% standardized curcumin, a daily dose of 1000mg, and no more additional ingredients.

Nature’s elixir, water, should also be included in your diet. This helps cleanse the body and will in turn reduce inflammation.  To help make your water intake a little tastier, include a lemon with it.  There are two schools of thought when it comes to how much water should be included in a daily diet. Some feel you should go for a quantitative amount such as eight glasses a day. There are other experts who contend it is best to replace other drinks you have during the day with water to get the best health results. Either idea is fine, just drink more water during the day or night and you will likely see results.

If you are not drinking water, look at green tea as an option. Not the processed green tea you see in convenience store coolers, but home brewed.  Green tea has a high level of anti-oxidants which are valuable dietary additions to combat illness, pain and inflammation.

Once again this won’t cure spinal stenosis, but it can help make one’s daily routine feel a little better along the way.

For many individuals changing their diet is not the easiest thing to do. This is because foods that cause inflammation are part of the daily dietary intake and more importantly these foods are very addictive.  It has been researched and shown that processed food is as addictive as cocaine so it can be very difficult to simply change one’s diet. However, the benefits of consuming a healthy diet have untold benefits towards the body, mind, and spirit.  It’s important to give some time and thought to consuming healthy food. In making right eating choices apart of our daily routine,  you will notice your body starting to desire more healthy foods that are high in the vitamins and minerals.

Physical ExertionsExercising does wonders for the body! The benefits of exercises are numerous and there really isn’t a better alternative than exercising to prevent medical conditions and to help to alleviate some health problems. Exercising the body maintain strength and flexibility. Specifically, in this case, strength and flexibility training is incredibly beneficial for those who suffer from lower back pains. Think about using more exercises in conjunction with your running – don’t just make running your exercise. Three major exercises for someone who suffers from spinal stenosis to consider are:

Walking- Just simply walk for thirty minutes . This has been shown and proven to increase peoples bone density. Take a day off from your running routine and replace it with a “walk day.” This can also provide other ways to ward off injuries and fatigue but still remaining active.

Spinning – The high octane stationary bike group work out may be an added addition to your athletic repertoire. A spin class for 20, 30, 45 to 60 mins will allow someone to burn a lot of calories during a high intensive cardio vascular workout. The best part of spinning for someone with spinal stenosis is that the class will focus on core strength and help reinforce a better posture.

During a spin class, you will change positions a number of times at a fast rate. This part of the workout will help increase core stability and strength.  The standing, up-right position of a spin class will help promote better posture as well. As you would expect, spinning helps to strengthen leg muscles (particularly the quads and hamstrings).  It is vital for someone with spinal issues to strengthen the leg muscles to help reduce the pressure contained in the middle of the body and torso.

If your local gym does not offer spin, there are a growing number of home units available to consumers. The leading home unit brand Peloton offers a high quality product for just less than $2,000. That might sound expensive buy you can make this the cornerstone of your exercise and physical activity.  Sole Fitness is another provider of home spinning equipment.

The home bike units come with a television monitor that features both on-demand and live classes.  It is important to find a spin instructor – either live or through a televised class – that motivates and pushes you to reach your full potential.

After just a few weeks of spinning classes, you will likely feel stronger and in better physical shape. This workout also will limit any type of repetitive pressure placed on the spinal cord. And yes, it can be fun!

Stretching – For many stretching isn’t part of a daily routine but it is extremely advantageous to stretch in the morning and at night. Stretching the body, especially the spine, will have major positive effects neck and back pain you may be suffering from now or in the future. You may be a runner but you may not be a stretcher. Change that and become a stretcher and a runner. It helps to keep the muscle young and elastic along with a host of other benefits including::

  • Better Flexibility – helps individual to have a better range of motion. A common trait in individuals who have spinal stenosis is the inability to perform certain movements. Bending over can cause excruciating pain.If you feel the effects of spinal stenosis, including yoga and Pilates into a workout regime can only help increase flexibility. Once again adding these into your workout routine will help avoid monotony.
  • Helps to release stress in the body – Our bodies are tense because of holding on to mental and physical stress. The great advantage of stretching is that not only does it release stress form the body physically but also mentally and emotionally. Yet another benefit of yoga for runners.  Try stretching by yourself in a closed and darkened environment to add a layer of mediation to the routine. Make stretching time your own physical and mental improvement time.Stretching should also take place in the office. Don’t sit at your desk for a prolonged period of time and allow your muscles and joints to compress for too long. Get off your seat at least every 45 minutes to stretch and increase blood flow throughout the body. Walk to the bathroom, the water cooler, whatever it takes to avoid sedentary behavior.Stand up desks are becoming more popular in ergonomic friendly office spaces. These height adjustable standing desks allow someone to use the computer while standing up. The desk has an accordion like feature that can also be lowered to work in a conventional sitting position. The flexibility to stand in the workplace will help your overall flexibility.
  • Reinforces a proper posture – Stretching helps to ensure the individual keeps a proper posture. Stretching the lower back and the spinal cord is a great way to keep the spine aligned.
  • Risk of injury is abated – Stretching helps to supply blood flow and key nutrients throughout the body allowing for a speedier recovery. Basically you can do no wrong if you stretch more – before and after runs and workouts.

Lumbar-Lordosis-back-strengthening-exercise

Here are a few example of some stretches you can do for you spine (which are not too difficult for those who already have spinal stenosis):

  • Step 1: Lie down on your back. (Make sure you have a yoga mat)
  • Step 2: Place hands to your side
  • Step 3: Raise your hip off ground. (This will target the lower back

 

  • Step 1: Lie on your stomach
  • Step 2: Keep hands to your side
  • Step 3: Slowly raise up. (This stretch targets the lower back)

Swimming – Perhaps the best of these three exercises one can do to help strengthen and improve ones spine and treat spinal stenosis is swimming. Swimming has a myriad of positive benefits.

  • easier to handle movements
  • strengthens and tones muscles
  • helps joints and ligaments stay loose and flexible
  • a calorie burning cardio vascular exercise
  • it’s fun!!!
Underwater shot of professional male athlete swimming in pool

The Arthritis Foundation has commented that those who suffer from arthritis need to stretch and strengthen the muscles and perform some form of aerobic exercise. The beauty behind swimming is that is does all of these three! Now, as one starts to feel some levels of pain reduction, one can start to increase the phase and intensity of exercising. Weight training is a great way to help improve the muscles and bone density. Lifting weights can actually help to reverse the condition.

Spinal Fusion (Arthrodesis)- is a major surgery where two or more vertebrate are joined or fused together. However, there is not much research about the after effects of the procedure. Along with the lack of strongly supported research, the cost is quite expensive. Pain might still last even after the surgery. For those who undergo the operation they may need to temporarily wear a brace to help support the back.

 

Lumbar-Lordosis-TLSO-brace

The operation along with being very expensive, there are problems that might occur after the operation has been completed. Noticeable risks involved in undergoing this operation are:

  • Pain at the bone graft
  • Rejection of the graft
  • Infection
  • Nerve Injury
  • The fusion might fail and the metal that holds the fusion together could break

This should all be taken into consideration when contemplating whether or not one wants to pursue this avenue when trying to alleviate spinal stenosis. Often those who undergo one spinal surgery often go under the knife again. Do everything possible not to get caught up in this cycle.

Laminectomy- is a surgery that will help to create space between bones so that inflammation can go down. The surgery involves the doctor removing the lamina (a thin, flat plate or stratum) along with bone spurs (bony projections). This surgery is also called lumbar laminectomy, cervical laminectomy,  decompressive laminectomy. This surgery is used only when spinal stenosis starts to interfere in someones quality of life.  The risk of undergoing this surgery are quite numerous:

  • damaging the spinal nerve
  • an infection might occur
  • the treatment might prove unsuccessful and the pain will remain
  • blood clots in the legs
  • a stroke
  • a heart attack
  • the medication might cause a sever reaction

Herniated-Disc-Laminectomy

The spinal fusion and laminectomy operations are very expensive with no guarantee that the surgical procedure will leave individual free from pain. Along with this operation there are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Because of the many risk associated with the operation, some doctors inform their patients about alternative methods before going through with the surgical procedure.

Acupuncture- might seem to be stretching the imagination for some individuals but there is research that have shown that acupuncture has many beneficial qualities to it. Acupuncture is an ancient Eastern method of dealing with pain throughout the body. For many, acupuncture is associated with a lot of needles inserted into a person’s body. What is not known is that these needles are inserted in specific places throughout the body called meridians. In acupuncture the doctors believe that the body has something called “chi”. This chi is energy that flows throughout the body.

According to those of the Eastern medical philosophy, when a person experiences pain it is because the flow of their chi is being blocked. When the doctors insert the needles into the body, the physicians are getting the energy to flow throughout the body. This might sound very alien to many people, especially if you live in the west and raised on conventional pharmaceutical treatments. However, research has shown that acupuncture helps to release endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers.  Research has shown that those who suffer from spinal stenosis and participated in the study experienced less pain after the research experiment was completed.

If you have never experienced back or spinal pain, acupuncture may sound like a preposterous idea. For those who have had issues in this area, any option is worth investigating.

If you are not comfortable with the idea of needles, then look for local massage therapists who use acupressure and offer associated treatments. This is similar to acupuncture but the therapist uses his or her hands (sometimes elbows) to use direct and forcible weight on body parts (usually the hands and feet) to relieve pressure. Think of this as a much more intensive deep tissue massage. It is definitely worth a session or two for someone who can not commit to the idea of acupuncture.

Chiropractic- Chiropractors approach to this issue with something called subluxation of the spine. Subluxation of the spine is when the vertebrae don’t move as they well as they could and should. The chiropractor basically tries to get the joints and bones to move as they should.

The chiropractor basically tries to get the joints and bones to move as they should. Chiropractic therapy  is often a good way to muscle impingement in the neck and shoulder areas.

Chiropractic
Credit Source: Physical Therapy for Spondylolisthesis

Often those with spinal stenosis will face pain in these areas since the spine is such a focal point of the body.

Not long ago there was a stigma attached to chiropractors. Many in the medical profession treated them at a lower level and were leery of their procedures. Times have changed for the better for both chiropractors and their patients. Many medical insurance plans will cover some chiropractic visits.

Now many of the people you run and work out with (young and old) are seeing chiropractors and have found success including their services in overall sports medicine treatments.  A good chiropractor will provide weekly maintenance treatment for their patients to relieve pain and tightness around the back and neck. They will also provide their patients with stretching routines and give good professional insight to what exercises at the gym and home can help alleviate their pain. Often the suggestions will include yoga and Pilates.

If you need a chiropractor, you will join the 22 million Americans who see one on an annual basis. Around 35% of those people see a chiropractor for back pain.

Application of hot to cold treatments –The method of applying hot to cold is also a great way to help alleviate one’s pain. Adding a hot clothe will help to loosen up muscles. Cold will help to heal inflammation. This is important as the heat will help to relax your back muscles and then applying cold ice will help to speed up the healing process. This is well known in the sports world, especially combative sports. Ice baths are very popular and have been shown to have a high level of success.

Analgesic creams, rubs and sprays offer only temporary relief. Don’t rely too much on products such as BENGAY since it can irritate the skin.

No reason to go overboard in your hot to cold treatments – an inexpensive heating pad and an ice pack are sufficient. There are plenty of gel packs now available on the market. You place them in microwave to heat and freezer to cool. Once again, no reason to purchase an expensive gel pack.

Practicing good posture- Having good posture is also an excellent way to keep from further damaging the back. The method of walking with a book on your head to walk with a correct posture and to walk upright, is another alternative technique.

Losing weight –There is much to be desired in exercising. The plethora of benefits individuals gain from exercising and regular workout rotuines are greatly overlooked and taken for granted. When you don’t exercise, the body it starts to deteriorate at a very fast rate. You don’t need to go out and do hundreds off push ups or sit ups but just starting with a 30 minutes walk or a 30 minute swim at the pool will make all the difference. Keeping your body at a certain weight level is not only good for your health but also for the body overall.

lose weight by running

The key to losing weight is to make sure you stay faithful to a work out and diet routine. Sporadic exercise will have little impact on your weight and health.

Taking a Bath – with Epsom salt or herbal soap and oils is  a great way to help reduce the pain. Eucalyptus soap and oil are well known for relaxing the muscles. Using oils for aroma therapy can also increase the healing power of a bath. This technique of healing dates back to the ancient Greeks.

Preventing Spinal Stenosis

The adage “the best cure is prevention” is a powerful statement. For those who are born with a spinal medical condition there is no prevention. However a majority of people who have spinal stenosis can prevent this from happening. Spinal stenosis is a medical condition that can be prevented. It’s not a condition that has to happen to us. There are many exercises, specifically weight training, that have great visible benefits if done on a daily basis. It must be noted that one must start with weights that they can manage and then slowly increase the weights as they continue to improve.

There is mounting evidence that weight training can keep the body young. You might not feel as vibrant as you did in your twenties but the image of being and elder walking around with a cane and hunched over is not a deterministic experience we have to live with it. The many benefits from exercising that cannot and should not be overlooked. The body needs to be maintained in order to work at its best and to last longer.

Stress Training Weight Bodybuilder Muscular

The benefits of weight training are numerous.

  • Helps to keep muscle strong and lean- Exerting your muscles keep the muscles from becoming weak and leading to less muscle mass.
  • Helps to improve bone density- In just taking a thirty minute walk we are able to maintain our bone density. The benefits, and one that is very important, of lifting weights is the ability to improves the bones density. The higher your bone density the less likely you are to develop arthritis. This is significant for many individuals because the leading reason many people develop spinal stenosis is brought about because of arthritis.
  • Increases metabolism- This is very important because metabolism helps us burn calories. A cause for spinal stenosis and other chronic medical conditions is because of how overweight many people have become. As we age our metabolism starts to slow down but in weightlifting we can slow down the “slowing down” of our metabolism. Having a fast metabolism is a sure way to burn off the calories we gained from eating.
  • Proper posture- lifting weights can help to maintain your posture and in some cases help to improve your posture.

There is truly no better alternative prevention than that of exercising, dieting, stretching, daily checkups and cold showers. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle is key in living a long and healthy life. In changing your lifestyle you will see great changes in your life!

False Positives

In the field of medicine, there are times when individuals are given false information by otherwise trusted sources. The fields of medicine and science are still fields that are constantly evolving and this is backed up with constant research and studying. So what are False Positives? These are results of a MRI, CT Scan or X-Ray that come back negative and are interpreted as positive. An example would be someone who went to go get an MRI on their lower back to see if they have a herniated disc. The person who looks at the scan will misinterpret it. The patient is told that everything is okay but they still feel the pain because the MRI scan was misinterpreted. Unfortunately, there are incidents when this happens. It is always a good idea to get a second opinion if the pain you feel gets worse overtime or simply just remains.

Wrapping it Up

Spinal stenosis is a prevalent medical condition that plagues the generation after generation.  Sadly there are no cures for this condition. That is often the case for spine and back issues. Surgery might come off as being a panacea; however, with the plethora of risks accompanied with them it is causing doctors to offer alternative methods that are less risky. There are many ways to help ease the pain. For others who are showing minor signs of developing this disease, you can prevent it from fully developing by taking control right now.

Don’t just attribute your spinal pain to “growing old” – be more proactive now and it will pay dividends in the near future.  Bone health is prevalent throughout the article. Bone health is a noteworthy “bone of contention” because it is precisely this factor that leads to the spinal stenosis, along with other factors.  With the information given this article you have discovered a variety of ways to not only prevent spinal stenosis but for those who have spinal stenosis to help alleviate the pain.  Enjoy your running now and think about ways to improve your spine and back. If you already have spine issues, find alternative ways to stretch in order to keep running. Ultimately, you should be able to have any spinal issues coexist with your running for the remained of your active years.

Curated by Diana Rangaves, PharmD, RPh

Sources used while researching for this article

The sources used for this article are listed below. These sites are respected sites with the articles written or researched by medical professionals; however, you should not take the information that has been written in this article as medical advice. Consult your doctor if you think you have spinal stenosis.

Sources

  1. Richard Weil, MEd, CDE, Senior Exercise, Medcine Net , May 02, 2017
  2. Michelle Schoffro Cook, Top 12 Foods that Cause Inflammation, Care 2 , May 02, 2017
  3. Amanda MacMillan, 14 Inflammation Fighting Foods, Health , May 03, 2017
  4. Unknown, Spinal Stenosis Symptoms, Causes & Treatments, Spine Health , May 03, 2017
  5. Gi Young Yang, Korean Medicine Hospital of Pusan National University, False Positives & Spine Conditions, Dr. Stefano Sinicropi, M.D., Aug 17, 2017
  6. Carol Eustice - Reviewed by a board-certified physician. , Overview of Arthritis Symptoms, Very Well, Aug 17, 2017
  7. William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR , Paget's Bone Disease, Medicine Net , May 03, 2017
  8. Unknown , Spinal Stenosis and Fibromyalgia, Spinal Stenosis.org, Aug 17, 2017
  9. Eun SS1, Lee HY, Lee SH, Kim KH, Liu WC., MRI versus CT for the diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis., US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health , Aug 17, 2017
  10. Unkown , Laminectomy, Health Line, May 02, 2017
  11. Unknown , 10 Health Benefits of Swimming , How Stuff Works , May 03, 2017
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  13. Uknown , Scientists Discover How Aspirin Reduces Inflammation, Science Daily , Jun 09, 2017
  14. Alex Dunlap, 'The NFL Beat': Spinal Stenosis, The Austin Chronicle, Jun 18, 2017
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