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How to Fix Spinal Stenosis Issues Without Surgery | Non-Surgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis

How to Fix Spinal Stenosis Issues Without Surgery | Non-Surgical Treatments for Spinal Stenosis

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida

Fixing spinal stenosis without surgery is something a lot of my clients are searching for. I treat patients that want to improve their pain and symptoms without surgery. This is not only a risk free approach but it's also supported by research. Let's review spinal stenosis and how I have been able to successfully treat it without surgery.

Managing Spinal Stenosis Without Surgery

Living with spinal stenosis can be challenging, but it's essential to know that non-surgical treatments can effectively manage your symptoms. It’s possible to treat spinal stenosis without surgery through a variety of conservative care approaches. Lumbar spinal stenosis, in particular, can respond well to physical therapy, which aims to strengthen the spine and help manage symptoms such as leg pain or tingling into the leg.

You can mange spinal stenosis with non-invasive measures such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and even yoga. I have seen all of these work but the key is finding the one that works for you. That said, all of these depend on severity of symptoms and you life so making these decisions with your physical therapy are ideal because they are able to sit down with you and help you make the best decision for your health.

Top Ways to Manage Spinal Stenosis Without Surgery

Over time and treating countless patients with spinal stenosis here are my top ways to manage spinal stenosis without surgery.

  1. Start with making friends with a physical therapist. Trust me, no other provider has knowledge and time to sit down with you and learn about your symptoms and challenges.
  2. Utilize flexion based exercises. They consistently improve pain and your ability to walk! 
  3. Strengthen you butt! The hip extensors allow you to stand more upright and longer without pain.
  4. Learn how to move your spine without pain! How and what you do are so important.
  5. Practice patience. This didn't happen overnight and neither will your recovery.
  6. Be realistic. Some people do need injections or surgery and that is okay. But it's important to know the risks and rewards.

A key component of pain management for spinal stenosis is finding the right combination of minimally invasive treatments. These can range from physical therapy to targeted injections that reduce inflammation.

When adopting a non-surgical approach, treatments are typically multifaceted, encompassing a range of therapies from physical exercises tailored to each patient, to novel pain relief methods.

Conservative care is often a patient's first line of defense, addressing spinal stenosis symptoms with a personalized treatment plan that minimizes pain while promoting spine health. The goal is to improve quality of life for every patient, focusing on reducing pain and improving mobility without the need for surgical interventions.

Embracing a holistic approach that prioritizes the patient's well-being and harnesses the power of conservative care supports the spine's natural healing process. By paying close attention to symptoms and working collaboratively with healthcare providers at Revision Health Services, individuals can find significant relief from spinal stenosis and preserve their spine health for the long term.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Signs and Symptoms to This Common Cause of Lower Back Pain in Older Adults

The signs and symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis are well known and studied. Signs are what we see on imaging such as MRIs and X-rays and symptoms are what people feel and I treat! 

Signs of lumbar spinal stenosis include a decrease in space in the intervertebral canal resulting in lateral stenosis or foraminal stenosis which typically impacts only one side of the body. We can also see central canal stenosis which is in the middle of the spinal canal which can impact both side.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Signs and Symptoms
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include but not limited to leg pain, back pain, and numbness or tingling into the leg. They can also include weakness into the leg or foot depending on severity.

With all of this said, lumbar spinal stenosis is very common and signs of it can occur as early as our 30's. It normal to show signs of decreased space around our nerves. They are designed to have extra space around. Some have symptoms and others don't. The gold standard of an accurate diagnosis is a physical examination. Which, I recommend physical therapy since stenosis is often a movement problem

Non-Surgical Treatments to Alleviate Back Pain and Spinal Stenosis

When addressing the discomfort associated with lumbar spinal stenosis, many individuals fear that surgery is the only option. However, there's an array of non-surgical methods that can effectively treat spinal stenosis and back pain with a focus on pain management and reducing inflammation. This is not only supported with evidence but I have seen it in my own practice many times.

Our approach at Revision Health Services prioritizes evidence baed alternatives, allowing patients a chance to return to their daily routines with less discomfort and improved mobility. And, most importantly a more confident future.

Non-surgical treatment that should be the first step to alleviate back pain should be conservative measures such as physical therapy. It's hard to find options that are nearly risk free and only have upside. Physical therapy is one of those options and we use techniques such as flexion based exercise and hips strengthening to reduce pain and improve activities such as standing or walking. Standing and walking are often the most painful and limited activities for those with spinal stenosis.

YouTube video to improve walking with spinal stenosis
Video on how to improve walking with stenosis

Among the options for patients to manage symptoms of spinal stenosis without surgery is the use of steroid injections. These injections, carefully targeted at inflamed areas within the spinal column, can provide substantial relief from the chronic pain spinal stenosis often causes. I see injections work most often in people who have severe pain. It doesn't change strength in your legs. The evidence is mixed for the long term impact for injections.

Many times when working with patients who are trying to manage the pain associated with lumbar stenosis, steroid injections can be a useful tool. There is often a window of opportunity where the pain has been mitigated to a point where movement doesn’t cause pain. This “window” varies among individuals and can range from one day to up to a year. Oftentimes if the injection is successful in reducing pain, a physical therapist will use this as a time to restore function. 

At this time we can use exercises to help improve the strength and endurance of the low back and core muscles and progressively build up exercise tolerance. Depending on how long someone has been dealing with the pain associated with lumbar stenosis, other parts of the body can decline as well. 

It's also worth knowing what exercises should be avoided with spinal stenosis. Check out my video below to learn more! 

Spinal stenosis Exercise to avoid video
Spinal Stenosis Exercises to Avoid Video

Typically we see that a stationary bike is a good tool for those dealing with lumbar stenosis. It keeps the back in a slightly flexed posture which can be a position of relief. Walking can also be a useful tool to help build up total body endurance. For those with more severe presentations, it may be advantageous to use a walker or shopping cart, as this can reduce the stress associated with lumbar stenosis. 

Massage for spinal stenosis, if done correctly, can be effective for back and leg pain. I always emphasize that those with spinals stenosis DO NOT receive a massage laying on their belly. That is extending your spine and often very uncomfortable.

Consistency with spine and lumbar exercises is crucial to managing spinal stenosis symptoms long-term. At Revision Health Services, we believe the holistic approach is best when striving to treat spinal stenosis. Our pain management strategies incorporate physical therapy and progressive spinal mobility work with lifestyle adjustments to better support spinal health and resiliency.

With the right non-surgical treatments, living with spinal stenosis becomes not just manageable but often much more comfortable.

Physical Therapy Services: Effective Treatments for Spine Health Without Surgical Intervention

Living with spinal stenosis can be challenging, but with the right non-surgical treatments, many patients experience significant relief from back pain and leg pain.

At Revision Health Services, our physical therapy services are tailored to address the unique needs of those dealing with spine issues, fostering pain management without surgery. So if you live in Jacksonville, Florida and want to experience pain relief, reach out! 

Our skilled therapists apply a multitude of spine treatments, thoroughly evaluating each patient before crafting a personalized care plan. Physical therapy offers a holistic and effective approach to managing spinal stenosis without resorting to invasive procedures. 

Not only is there little risk with physical therapy, it's very evidenced based. Physical therapy is a well studied treatment for spinal stenosis that can be effective in treating back and leg pain. In fact, physical therapy is more effective than an injection and the relief lasts longer! 

Regular sessions with some dedication can enhance flexibility, improve strength and improve your ability to walk and stand! This is key for spine health and spinal stenosis.

Through targeted exercises and hands-on therapy, we help patients reclaim their mobility and reduce pain without the risks associated with spine surgery. Our non-surgical treatments focus on the individual, considering their specific spine health challenges to ensure optimal outcomes. 

By fostering an understanding of YOUR body and how it works, we teach our patients how to protect their spine throughout daily activities and reduce your overall discomfort.

Our services extend beyond the walls of our clinic; we empower patients with knowledge and strategies to manage their spine health independently. The goal of our physical therapy services is not only to provide immediate pain relief but also to equip each patient with sustainable tools for long-term spine wellness. Trust Revision Health Services to guide you on a path to managing spinal stenosis and back pain effectively, without the need for surgery.

Activity Modification and Flexion Based Back Exercises: Living with Spinal Stenosis Without the Need for Surgery

When it comes to managing lumbar spinal stenosis, adopting a well-informed approach towards activity modification can be incredibly effective. Essentially stenosis doesn't like to extend. So tasks such as laying on your belly, reaching overhead, and walking be difficult and painful.

Understanding how to treat spinal stenosis without surgery involves a comprehensive back care routine that can significantly reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. If you have difficulty with laying on your belly, you will learn how to adapt. Such as laying on your side or laying down with a large pillow under your hips.

If walking is panful then using a rollator or a shopping cart can be effective for helping you walk longer and further. It's not a long term solution, but it can help you grocery shop with less discomfort.

Video on how to improve spinal stenosis
Ways to Recover From Spinal Stenosis Without Surgery

Flexion based back exercises can help you stand and walk longer with less pain and discomfort. Walking is a necessary component to everyday life. For those with lumbar stenosis, walking can be something that triggers pain both in the back and down the legs. There is typically a time window before the pain comes on. For some people it can be as little as 5 minutes, where others can walk for over an hour before the symptoms begin. Taking breaks before the symptoms get too bad is a great way to modify activity so that you can make it the whole day. 

I have had patients who get relief when they bend over at the waist.

I would suggest to them when they are out walking, that at the first signs of pain stop, sit, and bend over a few times. This can help reduce the effects of lumbar stenosis and buy more time to walk. We know one thing for sure. Ceasing activity due to back pain is a recipe for a decline in overall health.

Lumbar stenosis is just an obstacle that needs to be overcome to maintain a high quality of life. 

Our emphasis at Revision Health Services is on conservative care strategies that empower individuals to live with spinal stenosis without the risks and recovery associated with surgical procedures. Engaging in spine treatments that bolster your back's health and focusing on pain management techniques allow you to maintain an active lifestyle despite the presence of pain.

One of the take home points that physical therapists would like to convey to their patients dealing with lumbar stenosis is that movement is safe and encouraged! The experts at Revision Health Services can show how to effectively manage the pain so that you can return to doing the things you would like today.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Can spinal stenosis be treated effectively without surgery?

Yes, spinal stenosis can be effectively managed without surgery using non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, steroid injections, and lifestyle modifications.

What types of non-surgical treatments does Revision Health Services offer for spinal stenosis?

At Revision Health Services, we offer a range of non-surgical treatments including targeted physical therapy programs, flexion based exercises and program development. We also specialize in pain management strategies to reduce leg pain as well.

How do steroid injections help with spinal stenosis?

Steroid injections are a non-surgical treatment, but semi-invasive, option that can provide acute relief from pain caused by spinal stenosis. The long term effects are still being studied and often don't work as well as we would like. They are carefully targeted at inflamed areas within the spinal column to reduce inflammation and ease pain, particularly for those with lumbar spinal stenosis.

Can physical therapy really improve symptoms of spinal stenosis?

Absolutely. Physical therapy is a key component in managing spinal stenosis. I have seen work many times. That said, it does involved work, effort, and time commitments. Like many things in life, you get out of it what you put into it. By committing to regular sessions, patients can reclaim mobility and reduce pain while minimizing the risks associated with spine surgery.

What is the goal of non-surgical treatments for spinal stenosis at Revision Health Services?

The ultimate goal of our non-surgical treatments at Revision Health Services is to restore function, minimize pain, and improve the quality of life for patients living with spinal stenosis. We match the severity of your symptoms with our experience and your goals to find the best treatments for you.

Reference: 

Katz, J. N., Zimmerman, Z. E., Mass, H., & Makhni, M. C. (2022). Diagnosis and Management of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: A Review. JAMA, 327(17), 1688–1699. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2022.5921

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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