What Causes a Spinal Stenosis Flare-Up?
Spinal stenosis causes flare-ups from a narrowed spinal canal. With this condition, the spinal cord may press on spinal nerves and/or the spinal cord, causing pain and neurological symptoms.
Flare-ups from spinal stenosis can interrupt your day-to-day life, holding you back from the activities you love the most. But, understanding these flare-ups, their causes, and how to treat them may help you better manage spinal stenosis.
This article will explore spinal stenosis flare-ups, including at-home remedies and surgical solutions that can alleviate them.
Table of Contents
Why Does Spinal Stenosis Come and Go?
Lumbar spinal stenosis tends to have symptoms that come and go. This is especially true when the condition is in its early stages. When spinal stenosis patients suddenly experience symptoms (or worsened symptoms), it’s known as a flare-up.
Spinal stenosis likely comes and goes due to nerve compression. Although the spinal canal is narrowed with this condition, the spinal structures may not press on spinal nerves. However, if various movements or lifestyle factors lead to nerve compression, the patient will likely experience a flare-up.
If spinal stenosis worsens, the patient is likely to experience lasting symptoms, rather than periodic flare-ups.
What Causes Spinal Stenosis Flare-Ups?
Factors that can trigger a spinal stenosis flare-up include:
- Prolonged periods of walking or standing
- Poor posture
- Excessively bending, twisting, or otherwise straining the spine
- Being inactive for prolonged periods
- Muscle spasms
Other factors, including smoking and carrying excess weight, can lead to more frequent flare-ups.
How Do You Treat a Spinal Stenosis Flare-Up?
If you’re experiencing a spinal stenosis flare-up, you can likely experience relief with at-home remedies. However, make sure that you’re scheduling regular appointments with a spine specialist, too. If spinal stenosis goes untreated, it can worsen, leading to exacerbated flare-ups.
What Helps Spinal Stenosis Pain at Home?
At-home remedies that can help curb spinal stenosis flare-ups include:
- Over-the-counter medications, such as NSAIDs. These medications offer relief for pain and inflammation, which can help you overcome spinal stenosis flare-ups. But, if over-the-counter options don’t offer adequate relief, you may want to talk to your doctor about prescription spinal stenosis medications.
- Heat and cold therapy. A heating pad can help ease muscle aches and tension, while a cold pack can help ease inflammation and pain.
- Gentle physical activity and stretching. Although it may be counterintuitive, exercise has proven to help alleviate spinal stenosis symptoms. Just make sure that your exercise choices are gentle and low-impact, such as taking short walks or swimming.
- Topical pain relievers, such as Icy Hot or Bengay. These topical medications can help ease spinal stenosis pain when you’re struggling with a flare-up.
In addition to these home remedies, spinal stenosis patients who are suffering from pain flare-ups may benefit from:
- Physical therapy can offer pain relief through muscle strengthening, stretching, and targeted exercises
- Massage therapy, which can alleviate muscle tension and release pressure on the spine
- Acupuncture can provide pain relief and greater mobility by stimulating your body’s healing response
- Chiropractic care, which improves spinal alignment through manual adjustments
What Kind of Trauma Causes Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is most often caused by age-related spinal degeneration. Due to accumulated wear and tear over time, many adults experience spinal stenosis in their later years.
However, spinal stenosis can also be caused by sudden trauma to the spine. This may result from an auto accident, sports, or workplace injury.
A vertebral dislocation or fracture can damage the spinal canal. This can lead to displaced bone tissue, which may reduce the open space in the spinal canal. The displaced bone may press on spinal nerves or the spinal cord, leading to spinal stenosis symptoms.
Inflammation after a sudden spinal injury can also contribute to spinal stenosis pain.
What Does a Neurosurgeon Do for Spinal Stenosis?
A neurosurgeon specializes in surgery on the nervous system, namely the spinal cord and brain. Your spinal cord extends from your brain down to your lower back and is responsible for transporting nerve signals throughout your body.
Patients with spinal stenosis may see a neurosurgeon if they’re not responding to non-surgical treatment options after several months or years. A neurosurgeon can advise you on spinal stenosis surgery and whether or not it’s a good fit for you.
You may be a good candidate for spinal stenosis surgery if any of the following are true:
- You’ve tried non-surgical treatments for six to 12 months and haven’t experienced symptom improvement.
- Persistent spinal stenosis symptoms inhibit your day-to-day activities and overall quality of life.
- You’re in severe, chronic pain caused by spinal stenosis.
If you’re a good fit for spinal stenosis surgery, your neurosurgeon can perform a laminectomy with or without spinal fusion. A laminectomy is a form of spinal decompression involving part of the lamina, a bone covering the back of the spinal canal. Removing a section of this bone can relieve nerve compression caused by spinal stenosis.
Spinal fusion has conventionally been performed after spinal decompression. It prevents instability by permanently fusing the affected vertebrae using a bone graft. Unfortunately, this process also limits patients’ mobility and creates the risk of adjacent segment disease, among other complications.
Progressive and Reliable Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Surgery Options
Patients now have spinal fusion alternatives to consider for lumbar spinal stenosis surgery. A non-fusion spinal implant, like the TOPS System, is an innovative solution that stabilizes the spine without compromising the patient’s motion.
The TOPS System is specifically designed for lumbar spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis. It’s implanted after spinal decompression to establish a controlled range of motion in the lumbar spine. In addition to greater spinal mobility, the TOPS System provides a much shorter recovery period when compared to spinal fusion.
Regain your mobility with Premia Spine! Contact us now
If you’re suffering from persistent spinal stenosis flare-ups, schedule an appointment with a spine specialist to learn more about the advanced treatment options available today.