Spinal Stenosis











What is Spinal Stenosis?
The term “stenosis” comes from Greek and means a “choking”. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal and foramen, which results in “choking” of the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. In lumbar spinal stenosis, the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, or ‘choked’, and this can produce symptoms of pain, tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the buttocks, legs and feet.

Spinal stenosis can also occur in the cervical spine (neck) causing similar symptoms into the arms and sometimes even into the legs.

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?
While stenosis is a gradual onset condition that deteriorates with age it is commonly started by an acute injury.

The most likely cause of spinal stenosis is bone growth encroaching upon the spinal canal as your spine degenerates.

For example, a damaged intervertebral disc, your spines built-in shock absorber, can rupture or partially tear. As a result, it becomes less effective at shock absorbing, much like a flat tyre on your car. This results in more stress transferring through your bony vertebrae (e.g your car’s chassis).

However, unlike your car, the additional stress through the bone prompts your body to automatically grow more bone to cope with the addition stress. Unfortunately the bone grows outwards in cross-sectional area and narrows the spinal canal. This extra bone narrows the tunnel that your spinal cord must travel through.
Who is Likely to Suffer Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is most common in men and women over 50 years of age and is related to degenerative changes in the spine. However, it may occur in younger people who are born with a narrowing of the spinal canal or who suffer an injury to the spine.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?
Manual therapy techniques can be used to help to relieve stiffness and spasm in the lower back. Mobilization of the vertebral segments can help free up nerves in the lower back. Soft tissue techniques can help to allow greater movement and help to free up the spine to ease pressure in the stenotic area.

Your physiotherapist can provide education regarding pain relieving postures and positions in order to provide some flexion in the lower back and relieve the compression of the nerves.

Self –management of this condition is the key and your physiotherapist can develop a home exercise program to improve the mobility in your lower back and hips and also train the stability muscles which are important to stabilise your spine.