Complete prevention of spinal narrowing is not possible, though there are ways that you can minimize your risk of developing the condition. A narrowed spinal canal, also referred to as spinal stenosis, may be caused by disease or congenital factors, though the most common causes are degenerative spine conditions that develop over the course of the natural aging process.
As we age, the intervertebral discs, facet joints, and vertebrae of our spine begin to deteriorate, which can lead to anatomical abnormalities that extrude into the spinal canal, causing it to narrow. With less space in which to function, spinal nerves can become painfully compressed. And while we may not be able to prevent spinal degeneration or turn back the hands of time, staying healthy will lower our risk of stenosis.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Observing a healthy, physician-supervised regimen of diet and exercise can help strengthen the following components of the spine:
- Vertebrae – plenty of calcium and vitamin D will help bones stay strong, thus reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Muscles of the back and neck – low-impact exercise and core strength building can help reduce some of the weight-bearing stress on your spine.
- Spinal ligaments – gentle stretching, like restorative yoga, can help with relaxation and the elongation of ligaments that may be inflamed and causing neural compression.
- Intervertebral discs and facet joints – you can help keep these cartilaginous aspects of your spine hydrated and strong by drinking plenty of water and eating foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
Knowing When to Visit a Doctor
If, despite your best efforts at spinal narrowing prevention, you suspect you are suffering from symptoms of neural compression due to spinal stenosis, you should schedule a consultation with your primary care physician or a spine specialist. A physical examination, in conjunction with an MRI or CT scan, should be able to confirm a diagnosis and allow you to then formulate an appropriate treatment plan.