Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of your spinal canal, causing pressure on the nerves that run through it. It can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in your back, neck, arms, or legs depending on where the pressure occurs.
The outstanding providers at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates see many patients who already have back pain and appear to have an increased risk of developing spinal stenosis. In this post, we describe some things you can do to help mitigate that risk and to maintain your mobility even if spinal stenosis does develop. If you already have some degree of back pain or you have factors that increase your risk of spinal stenosis, follow these four tips.
1. Quit smoking if you haven’t already
Smoking is just bad for your health. It’s bad for your heart, your brain, your skin, your lungs, and yes, even for your spine. Researchers have shown a clear link between a higher risk of lumbar spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of your spinal canal in your lower back, and smoking.
If you need help quitting, talk to us or your primary care doctor. There may be resources and approaches to quitting of which you aren’t yet aware.
Telling someone to get plenty of exercise is a fairly ambiguous direction. Should you take up a sport? Do you need to do Pilates? Is walking your dog enough?
Those are all valid questions, and so are the many others you may have when a medical professional tells you to exercise. The American Heart Association recommends adults get about 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. A brisk walk that raises your heart rate five days a week is a great way to start.
If you have specific limitations when it comes to exercise, like back pain, we can help you find activities that work for you. Swimming and biking are good alternatives to walking if you find walking painful.
You should also incorporate flexibility training into your routine. Whether you spend 10-15 minutes each day stretching, take a yoga class, or find some other way to gently stretch your muscles, you’ll be doing your body and mobility a favor!
3. Consider body mechanics
Regardless of whether you sit at a desk all day or you have a physical job, the way you hold and move your body matters. Excellent posture is important no matter what you’re doing. How you sleep matters as well as how you move when you’re pursuing a hobby.
Learning how to sit, stand, lift, and move so that you lessen the likelihood you’ll be injured can make a big difference in whether or not you develop spinal stenosis.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
If you’re carrying extra weight, your joints and all the tissues that cushion and support them, including in your spine, suffer. Spinal stenosis is usually associated with osteoarthritis, the kind that is sometimes called wear-and-tear arthritis.
As you get older, the cartilage between your joints begins to break down. Joints that are bearing excessive weight may break down faster.
Much like being told to exercise, being told to manage your weight can feel like a difficult instruction to follow. We advise our patients to eat more fruits and vegetables, seek sources of lean protein, include whole grains, and avoid things like refined sugar or highly processed foods. Such a diet combined with regular exercise should help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
If you already have back pain or other risk factors for spinal stenosis, schedule an appointment at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates. We can provide advice tailored to your specific situation and answer your questions.