Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes the space around your spinal cord to narrow, which puts painful pressure on the cord itself and on the nerves that connect to it. Symptoms can include muscle weakness, tingling, pain, numbness, and even trouble with bowel or bladder function. Many people who suffer from spinal stenosis experience chronic pain.
However, there’s a lot you can do to manage the chronic pain from spinal stenosis and continue living a full and active life. Meditation and relaxation techniques can help relieve muscle tension to ease pain, and can also be a great way to manage stress. Exercise can help; you may want to consider seeing a physical therapist for help improving your muscle strength and physical endurance. Keeping track of your daily pain levels and activities can help your care team respond better to your pain management needs. Finally, consider improving your self-care by quitting tobacco, cutting back on alcohol, and eating better.
1. Learn Relaxation or Meditation Techniques
Chronic pain can cause muscle tension, and that can cause even more pain. But meditation and relaxation techniques can help control muscle tension. Meditation stimulates the relaxation response, coaxing tension from muscles to ease chronic pain.
You don’t need any special equipment to learn meditation or relaxation techniques. There are many online resources available for people who want to these skills. You may also be able to find a cheap or free meditation class in your area.
2. Manage Stress
Stress, anxiety, depression, and anger can make your body more receptive to painful stimuli. That’s why learning to manage your stress can help you gain more control over your chronic pain symptoms. You can start by taking steps to remove sources of stress from your life as much as possible.
Meditation and relaxation techniques are one way to manage stress. Other ways include listening to music, taking time for an activity you enjoy, or spending time with loved ones. Make sure to set aside some time each day for stress management. Whether it’s taking a hot bath, reading a book, playing with a pet, or drinking a soothing cup of hot herbal tea, this daily time will help you find more joy in your life even as it helps ease your pain.
Of course, when you’re living with chronic pain, getting more exercise is easier said than done. But exercise causes the release of endorphins, nature’s pain killers. If you’re undergoing spinal stenosis treatment, a physical therapist may be able to help you regain some of your mobility. Physical therapy can help you regain some of your endurance and muscle strength, while helping you retain some of your spinal stability and flexibility. It could even help with balance. A physical therapist can help you and your doctor develop an exercise plan that’s within your abilities.
4. Track Your Activity and Pain Levels
The more details you can give your care team about your daily chronic pain levels, the better-equipped they’ll be to help you with pain management. Keep a daily journal in which you record your pain level, on a scale of one to 10, each day. You should also record that day’s activities and make a note of whether any specific activities improved or worsened your pain that day. Bring this journal with you when you see any member of your care team. It can help them get a clearer picture of how much pain you’re in and what you might be able to do to improve it.
5. Take Care of Yourself
If you use tobacco, quit. Smoking can cause circulation problems and contribute to chronic pain from conditions like stenosis. Alcohol use can also undermine your pain management efforts, because it can affect the quality of your sleep. Lack of sleep intensifies pain, and pain can make getting to sleep harder, so it’s a good idea to do whatever you can to promote healthy and adequate sleep.
You should also try to eat a well-balanced diet. Eating healthfully can help you control your weight, which can take pressure off your spinal column and help you keep a handle on your chronic pain. Many foods, such as salmon, soy, and cherries, may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Chronic pain due to spinal stenosis can make every day a challenge. But you don’t have to let chronic pain control your life. Take charge of chronic pain from spinal stenosis; don’t let it take charge of you!