Is There Any Way to Prevent Spinal Stenosis?

No one wants to suffer a bout of back trouble. And yet an estimated 80 percent of us will suffer a backache at some point in our lives — some for a few days, some with recurrent stints, and for still others the pain never seems to leave. As we age, one of the most common causes of neck and back pain is spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal which puts pressure on the spinal cord, the nerve roots branching from it, or both.

But is spinal stenosis an inevitable part of the aging process? Or is there a way to prevent this condition?

To answer those questions, it’s important to know that some people actually inherit spinal stenosis from their ancestors and are born with narrower-than-normal spinal canals. But for most of us, some constriction within our spines occurs as a normal byproduct of aging. Over your lifetime, your spine is exposed to a great deal of wear and tear, especially the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions that are both mobile and support great amounts of weight. That’s why aging is more likely to take its toll on upper (cervical) and lower (lumbar) portions of the spine.

You can’t always prevent spinal stenosis, but simply being aware of what causes it and practicing these five health habits can go a long way in keeping pain and discomfort at bay:

  1. Stay active. By participating in regular exercise, such as swimming, yoga and Pilates, you can develop core strength that supports the stability and flexibility of your spine.
  2. Eat a diet rich in nutrients that allows you to maintain a healthy weight. Excess body weight places more stress on the spine, which can lead to instability.
  3. Avoid tobacco products. Ingredients in cigarettes can constrict blood vessels and other passageways in the body.
  4. Practice good posture. People who habitually slouch in their seats or stand with stooped shoulders unwittingly place excess stress on the anatomical structure of the spine.
  5. Avoid repetitive movements whenever possible. People who have jobs or pastimes that require a great deal of turning, twisting, lifting, or bending are prone to accelerated deterioration of spinal joints, intervertebral discs, and ligaments.

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