What Everyone With Spinal Stenosis Needs to Know: Mike’s Story

In Uncategorized by Seth Peterson, Physical Therapist Oro Valley

What is Spinal Stenosis?

“Stenosis” means “narrowing,” and basically refers to the process of certain holes in your spine getting narrower, usually as we age.  Spinal nerves, which branch and travel down your leg, have to exit from these holes in your spine.  A hole getting narrow simply means the nerve has less space to move, not that the nerve is getting “pinched,” which is how this often gets described.  This can lead to symptoms when your back is in a straight position such as standing and walking, where the holes narrow even a bit further. 

Is Surgery My Only Option?

No.  It’s a common misconception, even among some medical professionals, that surgery is the only way to improve symptoms from spinal stenosis.  In 2015, a randomized-controlled trial was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a prominent medical journal.  This study compared physical therapy to surgery in patients diagnosed with spinal stenosis, finding no difference between the two groups.  A graph from the study is posted below, which clearly shows no difference between the surgery and physical therapy groups. We see similar results in our physical therapy clinic in Oro Valley, which specializes in managing lumbar conditions.  

How Does Physical Therapy Help?  Hear Mike’s Story By Clicking Below.

If you’d like to take a look at Mike’s MRI, I’ve posted it below.  He saw Seth Peterson at our office in Oro Valley, where his physical therapy treatment focused on a combination of hands-on manual therapy and exercises that Mike could do at home to reinforce the effect of treatment.  As Mike says in the video, it can be difficult to get over the idea that surgery is needed to “open up the holes,” but remember that very high-quality research published in a leading medical journal now shows that physical therapy is just as good as surgery for spinal stenosis.  

When he first came to physical therapy, our data showed Mike was about 60% limited because of his symptoms. At the end of physical therapy, which was spread out to once a week or every other week, Mike had only a 4% limitation – basically normal!  In a segment cut from the video, Mike vividly describes having to check his watch every 10 minutes at the grocery store and bend forward due to leg pain prior to physical therapy.  You may have similar symptoms to Mike: pain with walking, standing for long periods, or straightening up after sitting for a long time.  You can rest assured that physical therapy can resolve these symptoms in most cases.  At the time of this writing, our outcomes for back pain place us in the top 2% in the country.  If it’s possible anywhere, it’s possible here.  As Mike said, “You owe it to yourself not to give up.”

More Information

If after watching the video above and reading this blog post, you’d like more information about spinal stenosis, there are a few things you can do.  First, go to our website www.themotiveaz.com and put your name and email address in to get the free back pain ebook “The Back Owner’s Handbook.”  Second, use the button below to send us a direct message.  We’d be happy to hear about your specific issues related to spinal stenosis and let you know whether we think a common-sense conservative approach is the way to go.