symptoms of spinal stenosis

5 Important Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis to Watch

Do you suffer from intense pain in your back?

If so, you’re not alone. The American Chiropractic Association reported most sick days at work occur due to back pain and that it serves as the single leading cause for disability in the United States.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis greatly contribute to this statistic. 

What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal cord. Causes of this narrowing include:

  • arthritis
  • bone spurs
  • degenerative spondylolisthesis
  • a herniated disc
  • scoliosis
  • tumors
  • an injury to the back

As this narrowing occurs, it causes the ligaments to thicken and the bones of the vertebrae to overgrow. The spine can narrow in one portion or in multiple portions.

Narrowing can occur in the spaces between vertebrae, the space in the middle of the spine, and or the part of the spine where the nerve plexuses branch outward. Cervical stenosis happens up in the neck while lumbar stenosis occurs down in the lower back.

This common cause of back pain should not get ignored. You should know what stenosis symptoms to watch for as it can lead to nerve damage, resulting in serious problems.

5 Important Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

Pain serves as an alarm from your body to signal possible danger to your health. Back pain can come from all sorts of causes. When you experience back pain, you should look for other symptoms that can help you find the cause.

If spinal stenosis is causing your back pain, then you need to see a professional. Read on to learn 5 important symptoms of this debilitating condition.

1. Numbness and Tingling

Sometimes you may experience a harmless bout of numbness and tingling when you sit with your legs crossed for too long, and it goes away within minutes. However, if you continuously experience this sensation for no apparent reason, then it may signal something more serious.

Anytime you experience numbness and tingling for a prolonged period of time, you should pay attention. It signals trouble with your nerves.

As spinal stenosis narrows the spinal cord, it presses on the nerve. Nerves constantly send impulses to help you feel and move and an interruption to these impulses creates that pins and needles sensation or a complete loss of sensation. When spinal stenosis causes this numbness and tingling, you may feel it in your arm, hand, foot, and/or leg, depending on the area affected.

2. Weakness

Nerves allow for voluntary muscle movement by allowing you to feel the area and therefore manipulate it through electrical communication. Sort of the way you move Mario with a Nintendo controller.

As the narrowing damages nerves and blocks the impulse, they will not work properly. If you damage your controller wires, you may find that Mario only moves limitedly or not at all.  In the same sense, blocking nerve communication means that you lose control of the area that particular nerve regulates. 

As a stenosis symptom, you will experience this weakness in the same areas that you feel the numbness and tingling. You should seek help at the first sign of weakness.

One common form of weakness from this condition comes in the form of foot drop. This means that the weakness in the foot or leg muscles makes the foot slap the floor as the person walks. Early treatment may reverse this symptom, but letting it go may lead to permanent nerve damage and loss of function in that area of your body.

3. Difficulty Standing or Walking

Weakness leads to loss of function.

Cervical stenosis can lead to shakey hands or clumsiness. This can make it difficult to write, drive, and do other important daily activities.

Lumbar stenosis can eventually make walking and standing painful and difficult, as it weakens the legs and feet. This also affects the person’s balance, causing falls.

4. Chronic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches begin in the neck and spine, resulting from the pressed nerves. This type of headache closely resembles migraine pain. It feels steady and does not throb.

It may start as an intermittent pain in the head. Over time, the pain occurs more frequently.

It often starts at the base of the neck or between the shoulder blades and spreads throughout one side of the head. Sometimes the person may also feel forehead and brow pain as well.

5. Bladder or Bowel Incontinence 

As spinal stenosis progresses, the scope of muscle weakness grows. Cauda equine syndrome refers to a seriously progressed version of this condition. 

As the bony protrusions and swollen ligaments continue to compress the spine, the damage can start to affect the entire lower region of the body. This leads to the inability to control the bladder and/or bowels.

Not only can this create embarrassing situations, but it alerts you to a serious compression of the spinal cord. At this point, you need to get to an emergency room. Letting it go any further can result in permanent paralysis of the legs.

Treatment Options

To treat spinal stenosis symptoms, you may use pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, and special exercises. However, only spinal surgery fixes spinal stenosis at its source.

Device Implants

For a person not quite ready for a more serious procedure, a surgeon may provide the patient pain relief by implanting a device into the spine. This can help reduce pain by limiting the forward and backward movement to reduce spinal compression.

Minimally Invasive Laminectomy

This procedure allows surgeons to remove the lamina, a part of the vertebrae that protect the spinal cord, to relieve pressure. It can also involve fusing the spine, to create a single bone.

If possible, this provides patients with the best treatment option. It offers a long-term solution and does not require an extensive recovery time like the traditional, more invasive open spinal surgery.

Seek Professional Help for Your Back Pain

If you experience symptoms of spinal stenosis, then you should see a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. Do not ignore your symptoms because they will not disappear on their own. Early detection of this condition can prevent permanent disability.

Living with pain greatly affects the quality of life. We want to help! Take your life back by booking an appointment with us today.

 

spinal fusion recovery

7 Must-Have Tips for Recovering From Spinal Fusion

Are you getting spinal fusion surgery and feeling nervous about the recovery?

The prospect of getting back surgery would make anyone worry. You’re expecting to be in pain. Plus, you’ll be losing some of your mobility, which will keep you from work. 

Of course, you want your recovery period to be over as quickly as possible. 

No, there isn’t a magic pill to get you back on your feet the next day. But, there are some things you can do to help the process along.

Though it will take some time, soon enough you’ll return to normal. This time, however, your new normal will be one that is free of back pain!

A speedy, healthy recovery plays an important role in your spinal fusion surgery. Here are seven tips to ensure a faster spinal fusion recovery at home.

1. Watch Incisions 

One thing that will set your healing progress back significantly is if you develop an infection. Not only that, it can be very dangerous and life-threatening.  

That’s why you have to be mindful of your incision area. 

Don’t touch this area, and if you do, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before. Make sure that your clothes are soft and gentle. You don’t want to irritate the healing skin. 

Checking on the incisions periodically will allow you to catch an infection early if one develops.  

Signs of an infection include if the area is hot to the touch or looks very red and swollen. Other symptoms are fever and painful urination. If you notice these signals, always play it safe and call your doctor right away.  

2. Sleep in the Proper Position 

When you’re in recovery, you’ll be getting a lot of rest. You will likely be spending a lot of your time in bed. 

Make sure you’re resting the right way. This will help lower your pain levels. It will also help prevent you from injuring yourself.

Check with your doctor for the best way to sleep and sit. But, generally, you should sleep on your back with your head raised by pillows or a wedge.  

Another pillow or two should be put under the knees to raise your legs. This will align your spine properly. 

To get out of bed, keep your knees together and at a 90-degree angle. Roll onto your side. Then, push yourself up with your arms, pivoting your legs until they’re over the bed and you’re in a seated position. 

3. Manage Your Diet

Eating the right foods will help your body recover from surgery faster.

Be sure to get enough protein every day. Lean protein helps your body build strength. 

It’s also important to get a lot of fiber.

You’ll be taking pain medication which is bad for digestion. Eating foods with roughage will keep things moving. Similarly, you should avoid foods that will hinder digestion like cheese and rice.  

Staying hydrated will also help this problem. Plus, getting enough water will help you heal faster.

4. Take it Easy 

You live a busy life balancing work, errands, and relationships. After spinal surgery, that go-go-go lifestyle comes to a screeching halt.

It’s normal to feel antsy while you’re held up in bed watching TV all day. There are things that need to get done!

Though that may be true, resist the urge to do too much too fast. Taking it slow will keep you from injuring yourself. 

Until your fusion is fully healed, you shouldn’t be lifting things over your head. It’s also good to avoid any kind of twisting or pulling movements.  

If you wake up one day feeling like you’ve turned a big corner, that’s great. But, don’t celebrate this with a victory lap around the block.  

Exercising or lifting heavy objects too soon, even if you’re feeling fine, can put you back in pain.  

5. Keep Your Pain in Check 

Managing your pain will make your recovery time more bearable. Staying comfortable and in good spirits will help you heal faster. 

If you’re in pain, you won’t be as likely to stick with physical therapy or get up for a short walk.  

Take your pain medication as your doctor has prescribed it. Other ways to keep yourself comfortable is by frequently repositioning your body. Getting up periodically will also help.  

6. Build Your Strength

Although you should take it easy, that doesn’t mean you should just lay in bed for the next month. Just as important as being gentle with your spine is building up its strength. 

One way to do that is by getting up and moving around. Every day you should be going on a walk. 

You’ll have to start slow. The first few days after surgery the best you can do might be a walk to the kitchen and back. But, each day the distance should increase a little. 

Another way to build strength is by going to a physical therapist. They will work with you during your appointments to build strength. Your therapist will send you home with daily exercises to do.  

It’s important to keep up with the homework they give you. Follow their instructions to the letter and you’ll be healed in no time.

7. Listen to Your Doctor

You also need to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.  

There may be times when you think it’s fine to do the opposite of what they’ve told you. Maybe you think you’re fine to go back to work or take a shower before you’re supposed to. But, everything they are telling you to do has a reason behind it.

By following their directions, you will have the best chance of recovering quickly.  

Follow These Spinal Fusion Recovery Tips

Healing from surgery is never easy. But, these spinal fusion recovery tips will help you get well soon.   

If you’re getting surgery to correct chronic back pain, it should be minimally invasive. To learn more about your options for treatment, book an appointment at our Hackettstown or Newton, New Jersey office locations.  

stenosis surgery

How to Quickly Recover From Stenosis Surgery

Stenosis surgery is one of those “both a blessing and a curse” situations. For the estimated 35 million Americans with spinal stenosis, the surgery can be a way to conquer chronic pain. At the same time, you have to go through the surgical recovery before you can enjoy those results.

As important as the surgery itself is, few patients realize how much of an impact their recovery period has. It’s also something you have more control over than you recognize.

To make your stenosis surgery recovery as smooth and efficient as possible, try these tips.

Tips for Recovering from Stenosis Recovery

Every surgery patient wants to heal as soon as possible so they can get back to enjoying their daily life. For spinal stenosis surgery patients, these tips can help.

1. Follow Instructions to a T

We list this first because it’s the absolute most important thing you can do. Before surgery, your doctor will give you detailed instructions for pre-surgical and post-surgical care.

This will include what medications to stop or start taking and when. It will also explain how and when to care for your incision, how much you need to limit your activity, and much more.

Every surgery and every patient is unique, and your surgeon’s instructions are based on your specific needs. It’s vital that you follow them to the letter. That includes attending any and all recommended physical therapy sessions.

If you have questions about your spine surgery or your post-surgical instructions, always call your surgeon to ask. Your health isn’t worth the risk of making incorrect assumptions.

 

2. Prepare Your Home in Advance

The road to a fast and smooth recovery starts before your procedure. While you may spend a few days in the hospital after surgery, you’ll spend most of your recovery at home.

One important step is to get rid of anything that you need to avoid during your recovery. For instance, give away your NSAID pain relievers or lock them away somewhere inconvenient. You won’t be able to take them after surgery because they can interfere with your healing process.

On top of these pain relievers, get rid of any tobacco or vaping products you may have in the house. The nicotine has a serious impact on your body’s healing ability. Getting the nicotine out of the house will help you avoid the temptation.

Another great way to prepare your house is to think about the items you’ll need in your first weeks of recovery. Move these items so that they are all easy to reach around your waist or chest level. You can injure yourself if you try to bend down or reach up too high to get something.

3. Have a Helper

A great support system is a vital part of a healthy surgery recovery. You need people around you who can give you emotional support while also helping you with your day-to-day tasks.

If you live alone, it’s best to have a friend or family member stay with you for the first several days. You may need their help in the middle of the night with medications or trips to the bathroom.

It’s a good idea to have several people who are able to help. This lets them divide the responsibilities so one caregiver doesn’t get overwhelmed. After all, you don’t want to damage your relationship with your caregiver in the post-surgical process.

4. Walk It Off

One of the most important things you can do for your recovery is to stay active after surgery. You want to get up and move around at least every few hours.

This is most important because it lowers your risk of post-surgical blood clots, which can be life-threatening. It also helps your body maintain a healthy blood flow, which helps the healing process. 

Of course, it’s important that you don’t overdo it. Start small by strolling between rooms in your house. Ask you get stronger, you can progress to walks down the block or down the street.

5. Listen to Your Body

Speaking of trying not to overdo your activity, remember that pain is there for a reason. It’s your body telling you that it’s time to stop.

Recovering from surgery isn’t like exercising. You won’t heal faster or get better results if you “work through the pain.” Instead, you risk a serious injury and the added stress can actually slow down your healing rate.

This applies to any action you’re doing after surgery. If you’re trying to reach for something and you start to feel pain, ask someone for help instead.

6. Get Some Zzzs

Plenty of patients underestimate the role that sleep plays in the body’s recovery process. They think, “I spend most of the day resting, so why does my body need more rest through sleep?”

In reality, there are a variety of tasks your body performs while you sleep, and that includes healing. Getting plenty of sleep will give your body the time it needs to heal.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions about sleep as well. You may need to sleep at specific angles or avoid certain positions. While it might be hard to sleep in a non-routine way at first, stick with it and your body will adjust.

7. Don’t Be a Hero

Another common problem for stenosis surgery patients is that they think that the less they take their pain medication, the better.

Forgoing your pain medication won’t make you heal any faster. In fact, it can slow down the process because it puts you under more stress.

Instead of trying to “fight through it,” take your pain medications as prescribed or when you need them. While we recognize that patients are worried about opioid addiction, this is very rare for people who use their medication as prescribed for a short-term need like surgery.

It’s also important that you don’t try to “find a middle ground” by taking over-the-counter pain relievers instead of your prescribed medication. Most of those pain relievers have a risk of bleeding after surgery, making them dangerous for post-surgical patients.

Creating a Smooth Stenosis Surgery Recovery

Spinal stenosis surgery is an effective treatment that can open the door to a less painful life for stenosis patients. How you heal makes all the difference, though. To help your body in its journey toward a healthier life, follow the tips above.

If you’re still in the planning stages and you want to find out if stenosis surgery can help you, schedule an appointment at our spine center.

 

spine exercises

Spine Exercises You Can Do at Home to Strengthen Your Back

Do you have chronic back pain that’s causing you to miss work? Are you looking for spine exercises that you can do from the comfort of your own home? 

If you have back pain that’s lasted for more than three months, you have a chronic condition. Surprisingly, more than 75% of all adults report that they’ve experienced pain in their back. 

Back pain is one of the primary reasons that people call off of work. Doing regular spine strengthening exercises, however, can help manage pain levels. 

If you deal with back pain every day, this article’s for you. We’ll describe some effective spine exercises and help you figure out if you’re a good candidate for spinal surgery. 

The Tree Position

One of the easiest spine alignment exercises to try is the tree position. Stand up and reach your hands as far as you can toward the ceiling. If you can’t move your arms very far, just stand as tall as you can with your hands by your sides.

If you can put your hands over your head, try to hold them there for a count of five. The next time you do the exercise, try for a count of six and increase from there. 

Just keep practicing the tree position every day, preferably in the morning before you go to work. You might be surprised to find that your back and neck pain levels are much lower. 

If you feel any pain during these exercises, it’s okay to stop. You can try to breathe through the pain, but pain is your body’s way of telling you it’s had enough.

The Rock Pose

The rock pose is one of the most simple spine alignment exercises out there. It’s actually an ancient yoga pose called Vajrasana, and it’s been done by people around the world for thousands of years. 

What you do is kneel on a soft surface and sit back onto your heels. Try to relax and breathe for about 30 seconds at a time. If your back is sore, you won’t want to do it for much longer. 

The great thing about these spine stretching exercises is that they’re effective in very small doses. If you can do them for longer than a minute, that’s great, but don’t push yourself at first. 

If you can, try to do the rock pose on a full stomach, before you go to bed. If you have a yoga mat, you can use it, but you can also do this exercise by kneeling on your mattress.

The Plank Stretch

People who hate working out are going to love this exercise. The plank stretch only requires that you lay face-down and try to support your weight on your arms. If you can’t support your weight, it’s okay to lay on your stomach for a few minutes. 

Plank stretches are great for improving your core strength, which in turn improves your spine strength. You’re not trying to do a push-up, but you’re putting your arm down from your elbow to your hand. 

Again, take your time and see how this exercise feels. You can do it standing up against a wall if that works better for you. Put your forearms against the wall and lean in just a little bit. 

Spinal alignment takes some time, and if your back has been “out of whack” for a while you’ll need to start slowly.

The Stand-and-Sit

Standing and sitting may seem like a really easy workout, but if you have back pain it could be a challenge. Take a minute or two each day to sit down and then stand up slowly. 

The reason that the stand-and-sit is one of the most difficult spine straightening exercises is that it forces you to focus on your alignment. If you need help standing up, you can use the wall or a cane. 

You don’t have to do the stand-and-sit every day, but try to do it at least once per week. If you spend a lot of time sitting at work, you might find that a standing desk is a big help for your back pain.

Keep an eye on your pain levels, though. If you have chronic lower back pain, you could have a problem with torn discs. Degenerative disc disease can come as a result of a car accident, or simply from growing older. 

Spine Exercises with Weights

If these exercises are making you feel better, try to extend your workout by a few minutes at a time. You can use light weights if you want to go for a deeper workout. 

If you don’t have weights, you can actually use something everyone has at home. Go to the pantry and take out two cans of vegetables or soup.

Hold them in your hands while you stretch, and they’ll give you the same benefit as regular weights. 

Another option for bumping up your home workouts is to get a resistance band. It’s a loop made out of rubber and it makes your muscles work a bit harder. Start with the lightest resistance band and work your way up from there. 

Is It Time for Spinal Surgery?

Unfortunately, your pain may not go away, even with regular exercise or physical therapy. You may have tried getting a massage, going to the chiropractor, and taking time off from work.

If you have problems sleeping and standing, you could be a good candidate for spinal surgery. There are options that aren’t invasive, and that are done on an outpatient basis.

You could be up and around within a few days instead of a few weeks. We offer a free assessment of your MRIs and can help you determine if spinal surgery is right for you. 

Spine exercises are a good place to start, but if your pain keeps getting worse, come in and see us. We’ll get your medical history and spinal images in order and see if you’re a good fit for decompression or stabilization surgery.

You can book your appointment online or give us a call. We’re looking forward to working with you!