Risk factors for spinal stenosis
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 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 a 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 excess 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 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. To learn about the risks associated with this debilitating condition, read the following article.
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 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 no additional support to the spine from the core muscles, the vertebrae of the spine become compressed.
This compression squeezes down on the discs between the vertebrae. If this compression continues, a disc could start to flatten and bulge between the two vertebrae, which is known as a bulging disc. The disc flattens and extends beyond its normal boundary 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 with spinal stenosis
Common stenosis risk factors are activities that put additional and undue stress on the spine, particularly in the lower back and neck, which increase the likelihood of spinal deterioration. Activities that should be limited or avoided include:
- High-impact sports
- Repetitive activities like bending, lifting or twisting
- Smoking or excessive drinking
- Poor posture
- Not correctly stretching before physical activity
- Excess weight gain
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. This may include chronic and radiating pain in the neck or back, muscle weakness in the arms, torso or legs, numbness in the extremities and diminished reflexes.
Spinal stenosis treatment
The first method of treatment for many cases of spinal stenosis is conservative therapy, which includes physical therapy, pain medication, low-impact exercises and stretches. If these conservative treatments do not provide you with pain relief within the first three months of treatment, consult your doctor about a different solution. He or she 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 dedicated 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.
As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, Laser Spine Institute has performed more than 75,000 patient procedures since 2005. For more information about spinal stenosis and the minimally invasive surgery performed at our state-of-the-art facilities, please reach out to Laser Spine Institute today. Through a free MRI review,* our team can let you know if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient procedures.