Is arthritis causing my low back pain?

Mar18th 2017

Arthritis of the spine is one of the main causes of low back pain

We’ve previously discussed the 2 most common back pain diagnoses in depth. The first one was sciatica and the second was SI Joint Dysfunction.  If you have pain in your back that radiates down one of your legs or pain in your pelvis, then you should take a look back at those posts. In this post, we will focus on the 3rd most common cause for back pain, Stenosis, or arthritis of the spine.

3 Main Causes of Back Pain:

  1. Disc Herniation, or disc bulge. Referred to by non-medical professionals as “slipped disc”
  2. Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction, or problems in the pelvis
  3. Stenosis, or arthritis of the spine

Spinal Stenosis occurs when there is a narrowing of the holes through which the spinal cord and nerves pass, and this narrowing causes impingement or pressure on the nerves.

The difference between stenosis and a disc bulge is that spinal stenosis is a diagnosis associated with aging and wear-and-tear of the spine vs. bending/lifting/twisting trauma. Most people with stenosis are over the age of 50.  Also, stenosis is a boney infringement on nerves vs a soft tissue one, making it harder to fix.

Functionally, a differentiating factor between stenosis and a disc bulge is that people with stenosis tend to feel better sitting or standing in a hunched forward position. This relieves the pressure that the bones are putting on the nerves and, therefore, decreases symptoms. Common symptoms related to stenosis are low back pain and pain, cramping, weakness, numbness, and tingling in either one, or both legs.

How physical therapy can relieve back pain/stenosis pain

Spinal stenosis is a little trickier to treat than the other 2 diagnoses. You can’t stop the aging process; it is a part of life and, unfortunately, some people have more of a propensity for osteoarthritis than others. What is possible, though, is regaining mobility in the spine and decreasing pain in the legs with mobilization, stretching, and functional movement.

Physical therapists understand how to safely move the body of someone with stenosis, without causing an increase in pain and irritation. Treating stenosis is really about maintenance of the mobility and space that remains in your spine in order to delay further progression of immobility.  Occasionally people do opt for surgical intervention to remove excess bone from the nerve impingement site. If conservative management is not successful, pharmaceutical or surgical intervention are likely necessary to maintain a good quality of life.

If you have any of the symptoms discussed in this post, we would be happy to take care of you at MoveMend. Please call us at 206-641-7733 or schedule your first Physical Therapy appointment online here.