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Spinal Canal Stenosis (narrow spinal canal)

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What is Spinal Canal Stenosis?

Stenosis means narrowing, therefore this refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. When you age, your spinal canal naturally becomes more narrow. In arthritic conditions, the canal may become so narrow that the blood supply to the nerves in your spinal cord reduces, therefore, causing pain, numbness and weakness in both legs. Although this sounds horrible it is very common and generally occurs in people over 60.

What causes spinal canal stenosis?

Spinal canal stenosis can be aggravated by conditions such as:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Both conditions cause swelling and extra bone growth which can reduce the size of the spinal canal.

How do I know if I have spinal canal stenosis?

If you have Spinal Canal Stenosis you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain is worsened when standing or walking
  • Pain relieved when leaning forward

Your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose your condition and locate the area that is causing you pain whether it is low back pain or leg pain. This can be correctly diagnosed by asking you questions about your condition and examining your back. It is possible you will need to complete special tests such as check the reflexes, sensation and strength of your legs.

How can physiotherapy help with spinal canal stenosis?

It is recommended you have a trial of conservative treatment for at least six weeks before undergoing any further tests or invasive treatment (injections or surgery). Physiotherapy can help with spinal canal stenosis by ruling out other conditions that require further testing. Once you are diagnosed your physiotherapist can discuss with you the ways you can manage your condition. This will most likely include a combination of physiotherapy treats including:

  • Hands-on therapy
  • Education
  • Exercises
  • A combination of the above

What can I do at home?

It is important that you discuss with your physiotherapist what you can do at home. You will be given information on spinal canal stenosis, advice on self-management exercise, and monitoring of your medicines and condition. 

If you would like to find out more please call us or book an appointment here.

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Reference: Australian Physiotherapy Association 2019, Your Body, viewed 19 November 2019, < https://australian.physio/>.