In general terms, spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal cord and the resultant compression of the sciatic nerve it causes. The most common cause is a gradual, degenerative process that can be triggered by structural changes or inflammation. Advancing age in certain cases leads to the thickening of the ligaments or calcification (hardening caused by calcium deposits). Bones and joints may enlarge and project out from the body. The projections, called spurs, compress the sciatic nerve roots and cause sciatica.
Spinal stenosis is also one of the most common indications for surgery in individuals above 60 years of age. Surgery does not stop the degeneration and is effective only for the deterioration that has already occurred. More degeneration after surgery results in a recurrence, and this can happen as early as seven years after the operation.
Spinal stenosis is an unfortunate condition that can neither be predicted nor prevented. There are some acquired causes of spinal stenosis that are not connected with the natural process of degeneration. These may include a tumor of the spine, dislocation of the spine due to a trauma and excessive levels of fluoride and calcification of soft tissue into a bonelike material due to calcium deposits.
Orthopedics and neurosurgeons consider surgery for sciatic nerve treatment for spinal stenosis only after having tried non-surgical options for several months. Some of these non-surgical options include the following:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and inflammation
- Analgesics for pain relief
- Epidural steroid injections to relieve severe pain that often radiates from the buttocks down to the toes - The injection is directed into the outermost membranes covering the spinal cord.
- Local anesthetic injections, known as road blocks, near the affected area
- Lumbar brace or corset for providing support for increased mobility - This is suggested for patients with weak abdominal muscles and aged people where degeneration has occurred on more than one level.
- Restricted activity if the level of nerve involvement is severe.
In rare cases, spinal stenosis can progress to produce persistent and disabling pain accompanied by weakness in legs. The most that you can do is to manage the pain and try to increase mobility. In conjunction with conventional treatments or as a standalone non-surgical treatment, sciatica alternative remedies should also be explored for effective pain relief.
Alternate treatments like exercises, homeopathy, chiropractic manipulations and acupuncture are effective tools for managing pain. Yoga has specific postures for spinal stenosis that can help relieve pain and also be effective in improving the condition to some extent.