Spinal Stenosis

Spinal Stenosis

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller


What is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal and foramen narrow, compressing and constricting the spinal cord and nerve roots. It mainly results from the gradual degeneration and aging of the spine.

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

As we age, the ligaments in the spine thicken and calcify, reducing space for the spinal cord and nerves. The bones and joints can also enlarge, forming bone spurs that encroach on the spinal space. Furthermore, intervertebral discs, situated between the vertebrae, lose hydration and height with age. Injuries such as disc bulges or degenerative disc disease can accelerate this process.

The most common form of spinal arthritis, spondylosis, contributes to spinal stenosis. It’s a chronic degenerative condition resulting from the daily wear and tear on the spine joints. This condition often involves bone overgrowth and bone spur formation, further narrowing the spinal canal.

While spinal stenosis primarily affects individuals over 50 due to age-related changes in the spine, it can also occur in younger people born with a naturally narrow spinal canal or those who experience spinal injuries.

Spinal Stenosis

Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

The symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary based on the location and severity of the condition. In general, individuals with spinal stenosis may experience:

  • Numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in the arms or legs.
  • Reduced reflexes noticeable during a physical examination.
  • Pain in the arms or legs, with lumbar stenosis causing pain from the lower back through the buttocks and into the legs.
  • Radicular pain, known as sciatica.
  • Postural changes to alleviate symptoms.
  • Aggravation of symptoms during activities like standing, walking, or bending backward.
  • Asymptomatic stenosis, where narrowing occurs without noticeable symptoms.

Severe spinal stenosis may require urgent medical attention if symptoms such as constant or worsening back pain, genital numbness, weakness in both legs, or disturbances in bladder or bowel function occur.

Diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis

Healthcare professionals diagnose spinal stenosis through symptom evaluation and medical imaging. While a preliminary diagnosis can be made based on symptoms and medical history, imaging tests such as CT scans, MRIs, and myelography are commonly used to determine the precise location and extent of stenosis.

Spinal Stenosis Treatment

Spinal stenosis treatment may involve:

  • Physiotherapy to improve your posture, joint and muscle flexibility and improve muscle strength. These physical changes are aimed at allowing your spine to open sufficiently for the spinal cord to pass without interference.
  • Injection therapies such as hydrocortisone aimed to reduce swelling in the stenotic region.
  • Surgery to remove bone and allow the nerve structures to pass unimpeded.

Prognosis for Spinal Stenosis

The prognosis for spinal stenosis is generally positive, with a moderate success rate in non-surgical treatment. Both surgical and exercise-based treatments have shown similar patient-perceived improvement at the 12-month follow-up. However, as stenosis progresses the bone structures will further narrow the passageway and surgical intervention may be recommended. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to determine the best treatment for your specific condition.


In conclusion, spinal stenosis is a condition characterised by the narrowing of the spinal canal and/or foramen, leading to the compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots. Treatment options range from conservative measures like physiotherapy to surgical interventions. The prognosis is generally favourable, and consulting with healthcare professionals is essential for a tailored treatment plan.

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What Causes Lower Back Pain?


Lower back pain is a widespread issue in Australia, stemming from diverse conditions. As physiotherapists, we often encounter various causes of this pain. This guide aims to shed light on these causes and provide valuable insights for effective management.

Lower Back Pain Causes
What's Causing Your Lower Back Pain?

Muscle-Related Injuries

Muscle injuries are a predominant cause of lower back pain, including:

Recent research underscores the importance of regular exercise and core strengthening in preventing these injuries.

Bone-Related Injuries

Bone health is crucial in lower back pain, encompassing conditions like:

Disc-Related Injuries

Spinal discs are vital for spinal health:

Minimally invasive surgical techniques have transformed the treatment of severe disc-related injuries where physiotherapy and other non-operative options fail to improve.

Back Joint Injuries

Nerve-Related Injuries

Nerve issues can lead to:

Physiotherapy and newer medications have been effective in managing these conditions. Some will require injection therapies or surgery.

Pelvis-Related Injuries

Pelvic issues also contribute to lower back pain:

Pregnancy-Related Pain

  • Pregnancy Back Pain: Often due to increased back strain during pregnancy. Prenatal physiotherapy programs are beneficial.

Systemic Diseases

Systemic diseases like Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis can cause back pain.

Recent Research and Advancements

Current research emphasises a holistic approach to treating lower back pain. Techniques like yoga and Pilates, alongside traditional physiotherapy, and conservatively progressed gym programs show significant relief. The role of diet in managing weight and inflammation is increasingly recognised.

Best Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Treatment varies but often includes:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Pain management
  • Strength and flexibility exercise programs
  • Ergonomic adjustments
  • Surgical interventions for severe cases


Lower back pain is a significant health concern in Australia. Understanding its causes and seeking professional physiotherapy advice can greatly improve life quality. Remember, early intervention is key for an effective recovery.

What to Do?

If you're experiencing lower back pain, it's vital to consult a physiotherapist or doctor. They can provide an assessment and customised treatment plan based on your specific condition.

Back Pain FAQs & Products

Your Comprehensive Guide to FAQs, Causes, and Relief

Experiencing back pain and looking for answers? Our comprehensive FAQ section covers everything you need to know about back pain - from common causes and symptoms to effective treatments.

Click the links to our detailed articles to understand better and manage your back pain. Explore links to related topics like 'Severe Back Pain Management', 'Posture Improvement Techniques', and 'Physiotherapy for Chronic Back Issues' for a holistic approach to your spinal health."

back pain faqs
Back Pain Faqs

What Causes Back Pain?

Discover the various factors behind back pain, including muscle strains, herniated discs, and more.

How Can I Relieve Back Pain?

Explore treatments ranging from physiotherapy to exercises, tailored to alleviate back pain.

Can Back Pain Be Prevented?

Learn how to prevent back pain through healthy habits and proper body mechanics.

When Should You See a Physio or Doctor for Back Pain?

Understand when it's crucial to seek professional medical advice for back pain.

Repeated Bouts & Incidental Back Pain FAQs

Addressing frequently occurring and sudden back pain incidents.

Youth Back Pain FAQs

Focusing on the prevention and management of back pain in teenagers.

Back Pain Exercises FAQs

Discover effective exercises and tools for back pain relief.

Back Pain Prevention FAQs

Key insights into everyday activities and their impact on back health.

Posture FAQs

Learn about the importance of good posture and techniques to improve it.

Other Treatments For Back Pain?

Investigate a variety of treatments, from nerve blocks to spinal cord stimulation.


Empowering you with knowledge to understand, address, and prevent back pain effectively.

What to Do Next

Now that you've gained insight into the causes and remedies of back pain, it's time to take the next steps. Start by applying the prevention techniques and exercises detailed in this guide to your daily routine. If you're currently experiencing back pain, consider the treatment options discussed and consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice. Remember, every journey to back health is unique.

Stay informed, be proactive in your self-care, and don't hesitate to seek professional help when needed. For further reading, explore the hyperlinked articles to deepen your understanding and support your path to a pain-free life. Here’s to taking control of your back health and embracing a more comfortable, active lifestyle.

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