By Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson
There are 33 vertebrae or spinal bones in the human body. In the centre of each of these vertebrae is a canal or holewhere the spinal cord travels. Canal stenosis refers to an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal resulting in multiple symptoms.
Causes of canal stenosis include osteoarthritis, spondylolisthesis, rheumatoid arthritis, herniated discs, genetics or trauma. The risk of developing canal stenosis increases over the age of 50 as intervertebral disc cartilage decreases in size and bony spurs begin to form. As the canal gets smaller, pressure can be placed on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
What are the signs & symptoms of Canal Stenosis?
The signs and symptoms of Spinal Canal Stenosis include:
- Slow and progressive onset of back, buttock, groin or leg pain
- Numbness in the back, buttock, groin or legs
- Weakness or clumsiness in the legs
- Tingles in the back, buttock or legs
- Aggravation of symptoms on activity and reduction with rest
*These symptoms are specific to the lumbar spine stenosis – cervical spine stenosis has similar symptoms only effecting the arms as opposed to the legs*
What can I do ‘right now’ to help with my Canal Stenosis?
If you experience Canal Stenosis, you should stay mobile. Gentle aerobic exercise (e.g. walking, swimming, cycling) can help promote blood flow/healing in the region, increase strength, flexibility and help in the maintenance of a healthy weight range. Bed rest is very rarely recommended with back pain and it is important to stay mobile and avoid further stiffening/loss of range of motion in the region.
You should avoid aggravating activities as further aggravation of the region can result in inflammation. Inflammation can further reduce the space in the spinal canal and cause worsening of symptoms. In following this principle, we want to encourage minimisation of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medication, ice and topical anti-inflammatory gel application may be recommended to assist in your symptoms reduction.
Back bracing may also assist some people in minimising their symptoms, so chat with your health professional about what may be a good option for you.
When should I book an appointment with a health practitioner for my Canal Stenosis?
- Progressively increasing pain, numbness or tingles into the legs
- Inability to perform normal daily activities (walking, standing, etc.)
- Clumsiness/weakness becoming more apparent
- Bowel or bladder changes
For more information on Spinal Canal Stenosis, watch the following video by Sydney CBD Osteopath Dr Abbey Davidson, or click here.
What will a health practitioner do to help with my Canal Stenosis?
A health professional will spend time collating information about your pain, with questions being directed at establishing the probable cause of your symptoms, and ruling out less likely conditions. This will be followed by an assessment of both symptomatic and non-symptomatic regions, and neurological examination and provocative tests will also be performed. In some cases you may be sent for further imaging to assist with diagnosis.
It is important to note that conservative therapy cannot un-do the bony changes present in canal stenosis. Hands on therapy will aim to decrease inflammation, maintain/improve range of motion and decompress the region.
Exercise prescription will form an important part of your treatment plan. This will aim to improve strength and stability around the spine and maintain current levels or range of motion. Your health professional may also recommend the use of anti-inflammatory medication or corticosteroid injections to complement your hands on therapy.
If conservative management of spinal stenosis makes no change in symptom presentation surgery (decompressive laminectomy) may be recommended.
For more information on other conditions of the Lumbopelvic region, click on the following links:
- Lumbopelvic Pain and Complaints
- Disc Lesions
- Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ) Sprain
- Piriformis Syndrome
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