So it’s that time of year again to deck the halls, trim the trees, light the candles, and spend hours on our feet entertaining, cooking, baking, and of course… shopping!
This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of year, but not when that uninvited holiday guest – lower back or leg pain – doesn’t allow you to stand long enough to press out the dough for the holiday cookies, or walk long enough to get from the mall parking lot to that one store that has that one perfect gift. Never mind being on your feet four hours – you have to sit after just a few minutes!
The lower back and leg pain you experience when you stand or walk for too long may be referred to as “sciatica”, but if it goes away almost instantly when you sit down you may be suffering from stenosis, a problem in the spine that narrows the space through which the nerves travel and can cause a “pinched nerve”.
Many people who experience this pain suffer in silence and try to push through it, figuring “it’s just old age, there’s nothing I can do about it” (even if you are not that old!) or “I just have to get through it, it will eventually go away.” If you are one of those people – don’t fall into this trap!!
The good news is – you are not necessarily destined to put up with this pain forever! Based on the severity of the stenosis, or narrowing of the bony tunnels in the spine that the nerves travel through, there are certain stretches and exercises you can do to reduce or relieve pain and help you stand and walk longer. Specific treatment techniques can also help reduce strain on and loosed up any stiffness in areas that may be contributing to the stenosis. Many people that participate in these exercises and techniques start to see some relief within two or three weeks.
Other treatment options for stenosis include over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as Advil or Aleve, stronger prescription strength anti-inflammatories, injections and sometimes surgery. Health care professionals that treat stenosis include physical therapists, primary care physicians, orthopedists, and pain management doctors to name a few.
Although x-rays or MRI’s can be helpful to confirm this condition, many times an experienced health care professional can identify stenosis by what kind of pain you have and where it is, what makes you feel better or worse, and a physical exam.
If you are wondering if stenosis might be the cause of your unwanted holiday guest, give your local New Jersey Trinity Rehab a call today!
By Valerie Dellocono, PT, MTC