Leg pain can be caused by a variety of sources and can affect young people and older adults. One of the most surprising causes of leg pain is stenosis, which typically starts in the lower back. If you are experiencing leg pain and haven’t had any recent injuries like sprains or falls, stenosis may be the culprit, as it develops due to general aging and wear and tear. It’s common in adults over the age of 60 and can start to develop long before symptoms appear.
Luckily, even severe stenosis can have a positive prognosis. This type of leg pain can be managed by a chiropractor who will work with you to develop an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle. Eating healthy and maintaining good posture will also be important for your recovery.
What is Stenosis?
Lumbar spinal stenosis is when the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the nerves that travel through the lower back into the legs. The resulting pressure can cause chronic pain with no discernible cause. Stenosis can be caused by a combination of bulging intervertebral discs, arthritis, and buckling ligaments in the spine. It is much more common in older adults, and exercise and stretches aren’t always enough to prevent this condition.
Stenosis can be painful and severely limit mobility. In fact, the word “stenosis” is derived from the Greek word for “choking.” However, severe spinal stenosis can exist without any severe symptoms and may go undetected until it shows up on a CT scan or x-ray. It’s a complex condition that can only be accurately diagnosed by an experienced chiropractor.
Stenosis and Leg Pain
Neck cervical stenosis affects the upper shoulders and neck and is much less likely to cause leg pain. Lumbar stenosis can result in some lower back pain, but it most commonly causes leg pain, numbness, tingling, or burning. If you’ve been diagnosed with stenosis in your lower back, it may take some time before leg pain starts to appear, but it’s only a matter of time before it does.
This pain can be alleviated while the patient is sitting, especially if he or she is leaning forward. The effect on posture can cause overall back pain to worsen in the long-term, so it’s essential to seek chiropractic help as soon as you notice leg pain.
Treatment for Pain
Leg pain caused by stenosis will typically require a customized, long-term treatment plan, and won’t be fixed with just one visit to a doctor. For the temporary treatment of pain, simple remedies like hot or cold packs can be very effective. Topical pain relievers and massages can also be a good option, especially after exercising.
Long-term treatment will require regular chiropractic consultation. Since stenosis can be aggravated by poor posture, work with a chiropractor to make sure your sitting and lifting motions aren’t making your conditions worse. Even if you don’t lift heavy objects regularly, make sure to lift from the knees, not from the waist, to keep your legs and back on the path to recovery. Also, stay hydrated to allow your soft tissues to recover properly.
Your chiropractor will also work with you to develop an exercise and stretching plan to facilitate muscle recovery. While the at-home exercises can be uncomfortable at first, they’re critical for improving oxygen flow and muscle strength in the affected areas.
A spinal stenosis diagnosis can also be an excellent time to pick up a new group exercise hobby. Cycling can be good for stenosis recovery, though it’s essential to communicate with your chiropractor to determine your body’s current limits. While cycling outdoors can be fun, consider starting at a gym to keep your exercise as safe as possible.
If the exercises you’re assigned end up being too painful, work with your chiropractor to see if water aerobics or other low-impact workouts are right for you. Yoga and even Tai Chi can also give your body the slow, low-impact exercise it needs to recover. Who knows – you may even end up discovering your new favorite hobby thanks to your stenosis!