Reply To: Spinal Stenosis Anyone?

August 22, 2012 at 3:23 am

Well, it’s been about 3 months since I started my quest to relieve pain caused by spinal stenosis.  I tried the electrical stim device recommended by my physical therapist – didn’t help and in fact seemed to make it worse.  I have also had an MRI and xrays to confirm the diagnosis.  Since then I have found some answers although they won’t yield instant results.

I was lucky enough to find the most WONDERFUL osteopath Dr. Stephens who explained exactly what is wrong, how it got that way, what I can do about it now, and what the future likely will hold regarding my back problem.

Most surprising to me as well as a bit discouraging is that GBS has played a large part in the health of my spine.   I had GBS in 2002 and was fortunate enough to have a relatively “mild” case compared to many who post here.  I have had about 80 percent recovery, but was left with some typical, but difficult residuals.   The terrible fatigue that many of us are familiar with, as well as problems with propriation, balance, fluctuations in blood pressure, some areas of skin numbness, and lack of stamina.  Areas where the GBS did the most damage now tend to become weak nearly to point of failure when I’m tired or stressed. 

Because I am a small business owner and the viability of my business as well as the welfare of my employees and clients depended on me being able to perform, I pushed myself to participate as much as I could as quickly as possible while I was recovering from GBS.  I used what little energy I could muster to keep my business afloat.  As a result, I did little or no physical activity and other than the speech therapy, occupational therapy, and some minor physical therapy.  Once those were over, I became otherwise almost completely sedentary, as all of my available energy went towards doing what was absolutely necessary.  After that I was wiped out physically and mentally each day and required 12 hrs sleep each night.   The thought of adding exercise seemed as possible to me as climbing Mt. McKinley!

Well, as it turns out, all this while, my muscles have been shrinking and I’ve become almost completely deconditioned.  The muscles that make up the core of the body around the trunk weren’t used for so long that they were virtually non-existant.  Those are the muscles that hold the spine in position and help to carry the body upright.  Without the aid of these muscles, the deterioration of the vertibrae in the back (spinal stenosis) that happens to everyone as we age, accelerated.  So the spinal stenosis was greater for me than for most other people my age, and has begun to cause a lot of pain as the space between the vertebrae shrinks and pinches the disks. 

Dr. Stephens told me that this very process is the reason why most nursing home residents end up there.  Most have very little serious disease that can’t be treated at home, but once they become deconditioned to a point where they can no longer stand and walk on their own, they end up living in a nursing home.  I have watched this very process as it’s happening to my own mother and can see exactly how it happens.  The less exercise she gets, the harder it is to exercise, which makes her weaker, makng it hareder for her to exercise, and the cycle continues to get worse!

Ok, so my osteopath says the solution is to strengthen my core muscles, BUT due to the limitations of my GBS residuals, I have to do this slowly and carefully.  He says this could take up to a year, but that I can dramatically improve the support my muscles can give my spine.  It won’t stop the process of spinal stenosis, but will slow it down, and in the meantime, reduce my back pain. 

Next step is starting gentle Pilates with an instructor Dr. Stephens recommended who works specifically with disabled people and people recovering from illness or injury.  The bad news is it’s expensive – $350 for 5 one hour lessons- yikes!  I hope to be able to learn enough to be able to continue working on my own at home after the lessons.  I may then be able to add some gentle yoga classes. 

My doc also prescribed some pain meds, in addition to the Cymbalta I’m already on.  Those help somewhat, but I’m hoping to be able to stop using them, once I can build my muscles up. 

This will be a life-long process, so I’ll need to make time every day for these activities.  It sure seems worth it, if it helps the pain retreat, and will slow the progress of the spinal stenosis.  I’ll post info. about my results after I’ve tried this for awhile, to let you know how it goes.  I’m enthusiastic about it, since it doesn’t involve surgery!

Chrissy, I wish you the best of luck with your own situation.  What has your doctor told you about it?