Understanding the cause of spinal stenosis is important for accurate diagnosis and in creating a customized optimal treatment plan. The cause of spinal stenosis is categorized as either primary or acquired.
Primary means the stenosis could be congenital or since birth. Some individuals are born with a spinal canal that is narrower than normal. This is a rare occurrence. Signs or symptoms of primary spinal stenosis do not present until adulthood, usually around mid-life.
Acquired spinal stenosis can develop as a result of:
The leading cause is wear and tear on the spine due to aging. The most common direct cause is osteoarthritis, where the cartilage that cushions the joints begins degenerating with age. The cartilage is smooth when brand new. The cartilage can become rough and wear through as the body ages. This allows the bones to rub against each other. The rubbing produces small bone growths called bone spurs.
Individuals with these symptoms try to limit movement and limit pain from the bones rubbing together. However, individuals can’t stop moving entirely, and less movement reduces the quality of life. The bone spurs can create other types of pain. Inside the spine, the spurs can narrow the spinal canal, which can compress the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Risk factors for osteoarthritis and disc problems include:
This can damage a disc or move the vertebrae out of proper alignment.
Spinal stenosis prevention is about practicing lifestyle habits to improve and maintain spinal health. For those with stenosis, regular exercise combined with proper body mechanics will help reduce the risk of worsening spinal stenosis.
Doing exercise properly strengthens and protects the spine from everyday wear and tear and helps maintain body weight. Being at the proper weight puts less pressure on the spine. Gradually build up the workout sessions until comfortable.
General exercise guidelines are to go for 30 minutes a day. This is in combination with aerobic activities like walking or swimming and resistance training like yoga or weight lifting. Stretching out regularly is highly recommended as an effective way to lengthen, loosen, and warm up the spinal muscles. Here are some basic back stretches and exercises for spinal stenosis.
Proper posture and proper body mechanics are some of the best ways to prevent stenosis from developing/progressing and ensure the spine’s health. They should be practiced all the time:
Proper mechanics and posture keep the spine operating at the top level even when doing regular/normal activities. Even though aging is the primary cause of spinal stenosis, it does not mean not being proactive about spinal and general health. Exercise and proper mechanics give the back and neck a strong defense system against cervical or lumbar stenosis that will serve for years.
The information herein on "Spinal Stenosis Causes and Prevention" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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