Stenosis: Know When to Get Physical Therapy

A double-knee lumbar stretch can relieve symptoms of stenosis. Contact a physical therapist when it provides no relief.

Stenosis and Its Causes

Stenosis is pain, numbness or tingling in your lower back or legs caused by the pinching of nerves in the spinal column. It occurs when the discs between vertebrae breakdown, resulting in decreased spacing between them, which pinches the nerves. It may be the caused by an injury, or it may be the result of aging, just as cartilage between other joints break down as we age. For this reason, your doctor or orthopedist may call it arthritis or degenerative disc disease.

Order of Treatment

Selecting the right treatment for the cause of your stenosis can be confusing and frustrating. There are several options to choose from. However, after treating a number of people with stenosis in DuPage county, we advocate treatment starting from the least invasive and ending with the most invasive. So the progression of treatment would look like this:

  1. Exercise
  2. Hands-on Physical Therapy
  3. Medications
  4. Injections
  5. Surgery

The idea here is to only move on to the next step after the previous treatment has failed. So don’t take medication (3) until first you have done the right exercises for stenosis (1) and hands-on therapy (2) with an expert Physical Therapist who specializes in stenosis. This model is used by the healthiest group of people in the world. A similar system was mentioned in the #1 New York Times Best Seller The 4-Hour Body.

When to Call a Physical Therapist

This progression may not be for everyone. For one thing, you may be experiencing acute pain for which medication could provide more immediate relief. However, to avoid the side effects of opioid or anticonvulsant treatments, or to avoid the risks of surgery, exercise and physical therapy are better options. Between the two, start with exercise. Complete the appropriate exercise, such as a double knee-to-chest tuck, first thing in the morning for seven days. After that time, call a therapist if one of the following applies:

  • Your pain and symptoms do not change.
  • Your pain gets worse with this exercise.
  • You feel a little better with the exercise, but the pain is still there.

Some people will heal quickly. Others will need to take it to the next step. If you fall in that category, do not hesitate to contact a physical therapist. The longer you wait, the more difficult you condition may be to treat.

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