Spinal Stenosis Sidelines Football Players and Seniors Alike
Spinal stenosis, the painful spine condition characterized by a narrowing of the spinal canal or foramina, seems to spare neither old nor young. While it’s most often associated with older individuals younger folks can develop this debilitating condition as well. A former University of California Trojan football player was barred from playing when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He subsequently transferred to the University of Georgia Bulldogs where he is now back in the game as a linebacker.
While many people with the condition may experience few if any symptoms, others can experience back and leg pain, numbness or muscle weakness. In very bad cases, urinary and bowel functions may be affected. Treatment ranges from conservative to interventional therapies. If these fail to alleviate disabling symptoms, procedures such as laser spine surgery can lessen or even eliminate pain and functional impediments.
Most experts recommend the following medical and activity modification therapies:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain and swelling at the injury site. Rest and cold/heat therapy may be recommended until the inflammation calms down.
- Physical therapy to increase core strength that supports and protects the area. Stretching exercises can also help lessen pain and prevent muscles from tightening which would further restrict your flexibility.
- Acupuncture is considered to be an alternative medicine treatment but is in fact becoming increasingly popular and may offer relief from the pain of spinal stenosis.
- Prescription medication and corticosteroid epidural injections may become necessary when over the counter drugs don’t help.
Surgical Treatment Options
Surgical solutions to decompress the area of impingement on the spinal cord or nerve roots such as laser spine surgery may become necessary. According to the National Institutes of Health PubMed library, when conservative treatments fail and spinal stenosis is limiting your ability to function or when nerve damage could become permanent, surgical solutions may include the following.
- Laminectomy – removal of part of the vertebral bone, or lamina.
- Spinal Fusion – either performed with a laminectomy or alone, joining vertebrae together with bone graft or implant materials to stabilize the area.
- Discectomy – when spinal cord or nerve compression is caused by disc material, this procedure removes that portion of disc.
- Foraminotomy – this procedure enlarges the vertebral openings, known as foramina, through which nerve roots exit the spinal column.
The best treatment options for your spinal stenosis will depend on the extent to which your life has been impacted by this condition. If your symptoms don’t respond to conservative and non-surgical treatments or you are at risk for developing permanent neurological problems, you may be a candidate for laser spine surgery. As always, your wisest path to improved health is to consult with your physician(s) and educate yourself with information.