Stenosis risk factors
Spinal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition that develops with the natural aging of the spine. Because the disease is degenerative in nature, the risk factors for developing this condition can, in large part, be controlled so the disease may be able to be avoided. Such factors include weight gain, repetitive motions and weak muscles around the spine. Other factors that may be more difficult to control are arthritis of the spine or spine injury that leads to the development of spinal stenosis.
Many people can effectively prevent or treat mild forms of spinal stenosis through simple lifestyle changes, such as losing excessive weight and exercising to build core strength. Core muscles help to support and align the spine, as well as help to take some of the body weight off of the spine. Simple exercises performed at home or with a physical therapist can make a big difference when treating or preventing any kind of degenerative spine condition, especially spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis and body weight
Body weight is the biggest risk factor for spinal stenosis and other degenerative conditions. The purpose of the spine — mostly the lumbar spine (lower back) — is to support and stabilize the weight of the body. As the body increases in weight and becomes less active, meaning there is not additional support to the spine from the core muscles, the vertebrae of the spine become compressed. This compression squeezes down on the discs found between the vertebrae. If this compression continues, a disc could start to flatten and bulge between the two vertebrae. This is called a bulging disc; the disc flattens and extends beyond its normal parameter in the spine, sometimes impacting a nerve root in the spinal canal.
When a bulging disc or other degenerative condition occurs, the space between the spine and the walls of the spinal canal narrows. In the example of the bulging disc, the disc’s protrusion caused there to be less open space in the spinal canal, thus causing spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal.
Activities to watch out for
Common stenosis risk factors are activities that put additional, undue stress on the spine, particularly in the lumbar spine in the lower back and the cervical spine in the neck, and increase the likelihood or extent of spine deterioration. Activities that should be limited or avoided include:
- High-impact sports
- Repetitive activities that require bending or twisting
- Smoking or excessive drinking
- Poor posture
- Not correctly stretching before physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
It is important to remember that spinal stenosis is not necessarily symptomatic, but if the spinal canal narrows and causes a nerve root to compress against the spine, you will likely experience symptoms like chronic and radiating pain in the neck or back, muscle weakness in the arms, torso or legs, numbness in the extremities and diminished reflexes can all be traced back to stenosis.
The first method of treatment for many cases of spinal stenosis is conservative therapy, which includes physical therapy, pain medication, exercises and stretches. If these conservative treatments do not provide you with pain relief within the first three months of treatment, consult your physician about a different solution. Your physician may recommend surgery as the next step in your treatment regimen.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery^. If you are recommended to undergo spine surgery, we encourage you to contact our Care Team to learn more about the treatment options available to you. Our goal is to inform you about your condition and the treatments available to you so you can make the best decision about your spine care needs.
For more information about spinal stenosis and our minimally invasive surgery, please contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our team can review* your MRI report at no cost and let you know if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures.