Laser Therapy for Pain Relief from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition that can cause leg pain and numbness. The symptoms of this lower back problem can prevent someone from working, taking care of their family, or enjoying their favorite hobby or sport. Treatment traditionally involves physical therapy, medications, injections — and sometimes even surgery. Fortunately, many people are gaining relief from the pain and numbness of lumbar spinal stenosis with laser therapy.
About Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Stenosis is a condition that affects the bones of the spine, known as vertebrae, which are stacked upon one another like a deck of cards to provide maximum flexibility. The spinal cord runs from the brain through a hollow canal, known as the spinal canal, that runs down the spine. Nerves extend from the spinal cord through bony openings in the vertebrae to the rest of the body. Any pressure on these nerves causes pain and numbness in the legs.
Normally, the spinal canal offers plenty of room for the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the hollow area within the spine; this narrowing, or stenosis, compresses the nerves to cause pain and numbness.
Specifically, lumbar spinal stenosis affects the five lowest vertebrae in that back, a region known as the lumbar area.
Causes of lumbar spinal stenosis
Gradual wear and tear change the spine’s joints, a condition known as osteoarthritis, is the leading cause of lumbar spinal stenosis. The cumulative effects of osteoarthritis typically appear over a lifetime, so the joint changes associated with osteoarthritis usually begin when people are in their 50s.
Some people have a higher risk of developing lumbar spinal stenosis. Women are more likely to develop the condition than men. Those who have experienced an injury to the spine, a spinal tumor, certain bone diseases, previous spinal surgery, or rheumatoid arthritis are also more likely to develop the condition.
Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis
In its earliest stages, lumbar spinal stenosis may cause no symptoms. As the condition progresses, certain symptoms can develop gradually over time. Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include:
- Back pain
- Burning pain that goes into the buttocks and down into the legs, a condition known as sciatica
- Numbness, cramping, tingling, or weakness in the legs
- Loss of sensation in the feet
- Drop foot, which is a weakness in a foot that causes the front of the foot to slap down when walking
- Loss of sexual ability
More severe symptoms may develop. These symptoms include:
- Increasing or severe numbness between the legs, on the inner thighs, and the back of the legs
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Severe pain and weakness that spreads into one or both legs, which can make it difficult to get out of a chair or walk
These symptoms can be debilitating and severely decrease the quality of someone’s life. Treatment with physical therapy, medications, and injections can help; surgery is sometimes necessary. Many people avoid these treatments, though, as surgery is a big step, and taking opioid painkillers for long periods can have serious consequences. Physical therapy is effective, but it is not always enough to reduce symptoms.
Fortunately, laser therapy can also alleviate pain from lumbar spinal stenosis.
Laser Therapy Soothes the Pain of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Laser therapy is an effective, safe, non-pharmacological treatment to help manage pain from a chronic condition like lumbar spinal stenosis. Laser therapy, also known as photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT), uses specific wavelengths of light to trigger chemical reactions in the body. Specifically, laser therapy boosts the production and transport of energy within cells in ways that support healing.
The actions of laser therapy create various beneficial effects, including shorter healing times and reduced inflammation. Laser therapy eases pain by supporting the release of “feel good” endorphins from the brain and by suppressing bradykinin, a chemical that promotes inflammation. Treatment with PBMT can improve vascular activity to reduce inflammation and stimulate the production of new blood vessels. Laser therapy can improve metabolic activity to increase the amount of energy available to cells, support the immune system, and repair and regenerate muscle tissue. Laser therapy can even trigger the regeneration, or new growth, of nerves to help the body overcome the nerve damage associated with lumbar spinal stenosis. Laser therapy can also address other conditions affecting the nerves, such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you no longer have to put up with the pain and numbness. Consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer to learn more about laser therapy for lumbar spinal stenosis.