A: Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine which can put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that travel through the spine. When nerves have pressure on them they react by sending pain messages, either where the pressure is occurring near the spine or other times the pain goes down into the buttock, hip, or even all the way down into the feet.
Spinal stenosis often is caused by arthritis in the vertebra of the spine. These arthritic or degenerative changes usually occur in middle-aged or elderly people. Other times the stenosis is caused by herniated or slipped disks decreasing the space for the nerves coming out of your spinal column.
Treatment options for stenosis can vary but often physical therapy or surgery are the recommended course of action for patients. Recent research compared the outcomes of patients that chose the surgical route and other patients that chose non-operative physical therapy treatments as their first treatment option. The study showed that the long-term outcomes for both groups of patients were similar for both treatments, but short-term risk was greater for the surgical patients, and the cost was significantly greater for the surgical patients.
Due to the similar long term outcomes of the two options patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis should consider the less aggressive treatment option when possible.
Information provided by Mike Burggraaf, PT, DPT, LAT, Core Physical Therapy Inc., 516 Nile Kinnick Drive S., Suite B, Adel, 993-5599.