SPINAL STENOSIS, SCARIER THAN SPINAL DISC HERNIATION
Updated: Jun 21, 2018
Spinal Disc Herniation is one of the most common conditions shown in our current society. Spinal stenosis may have similar symptoms as that of herniated disc, however, stenosis is scarier than herniated disc because it appears after the the degeneration of the spine.
Spinal stenosis is often confused with spinal disc herniation because pain radiates from the lumbar spine and all the way down to upper legs. While the main cause of spinal disc herniation is deviation of disc, the main cause of spinal stenosis is aging-- which is the most representative spinal degenerative disorder.
As the degeneration of the spine progresses, the spinal ligaments swell and thicken, leading to spinal stenosis as the nerve canals contract, and the symptoms get worse over time. Pain radiates in the upper leg as the nerves gets compressed, and one must be cautious when symptoms progress to motor impairment, sensory impairment, urination and defecation impairment, and lower half paralysis.
Main reason for spinal stenosis may include innate narrow spacing between vertebrae, or narrow spacing because of protrusion formed from degeneration. Other cases include swelling of the mucous membrane around the spine, which puts strain on the nerves, or due to spondylolisthesis, which is a spinal disorder where a vertebra slips forward onto the bone below it.
Symptoms of stenosis include low back and leg pain, worsening of pain when leaning back, and relief of pain when bending forward. The legs tingle and are painful with stiffness, and they feel numb. The whole leg weakens and feels heavy, and they might seem paralyzed. The legs thin out, pain is manageable when sedentary, but worsens when walking or moving.
Although stenosis and spinal disc herniation may share similar symptoms, it is possible to differentiate between them. Someone with herniated disc disorder have pain when bending forward because the protruded disc compresses on the nerves. On the other hand, someone with spinal stenosis have pain when leaning back because the spaces between vertebrae are compressed more, and there is relief when bending forward because the spaces widen.
Movement makes the pain worse in spinal disc herniation, but in stenosis standing up is difficult and and the low back becomes more flexible once there is movement. You should suspect spinal stenosis, especially for the elderly, if the body feels stiff and heavy when waking up in the morning, but twenty minutes into activity may seem to loosen up the body.
Treatment for spinal stenosis include acupuncture treatment and Chuna medicinal therapy, which clear infection and edema (swelling) of thickened ligaments. Treatment that alleviates pain by healing damaged soft tissues, and treatment that strengthens the ligaments and impedes degeneration are necessary.
Lifelong habits, working environment, and posture are what trigger degeneration of the spine. Spinal stenosis, especially, is difficult to treat because pain is triggered after degeneration has progressed for a while, although the pain may come abruptly. Protecting spine health by maintaining proper posture and practicing stretching exercise as part of daily routine are important. Prevention and protection before manifestation of symptoms are important for any disease.
The following is a helpful abdominal exercise:
Lie down facing up with your right leg straightened out, bend your left leg and pull it up to your chest. The point is to keep the stretched out leg from touching the floor. Switch off the legs twenty times for two rounds. Especially in the morning before getting up from the bed, lie facing up, and bend the legs toward the body twenty times for two rounds. This is a good way to loosen up the legs that have become stiff overnight.
Published by KoreaTimes under <Health Column> on March 24th, 2015.