As your body ages, you’re bound to see some changes no matter how fit and healthy you are.

One of the most common complaints is a sore, achy back. That’s because your back has worked hard to keep you upright, stable, and mobile, and over time, the parts inside start to succumb to the wear-and-tear from years of use and misuse. One of the ways that shows up is in the form of spinal stenosis.

Our team at Dr. Louis Keppler & Associates here in Independence, Ohio, understands the plight of chronic back pain that comes with age and the frustration it causes. Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of your spinal canal accompanied by painful compressed nerves, tends to plague people as they pass the 50-year mark. One study showed that up to 500,000 Americans report symptoms of spinal stenosis each year; that’s 5 out of every 1,000 adults over the age of 50.

The bottom line is that you can’t prevent spinal stenosis completely, but you can slow its progression and lessen its severity by making some wise lifestyle decisions early on. Here are some of the best things you can do now to reduce your risk of spinal stenosis later.

Keep moving

A body in motion is stronger and better able to stave off many of the ailments that come its way, from injuries to illnesses.

Exercise can also help you keep spinal stenosis at bay, or at least reduce the severity of the symptoms. If you don’t have spinal stenosis yet, a good strength-training routine can build up the support system around your back, increase your flexibility, and strengthen your core muscles.

If you already have spinal stenosis, the pain may be preventing you from exercising. But the last thing you want to do is slip into a sedentary lifestyle. The inactivity will worsen your symptoms. Our team can help you identify the right types of exercises that won’t cause you pain. If walking hurts, perhaps swimming is better, or cycling, or yoga.

This is not a no-pain, no-gain situation. If you hurt, stop.

And don’t forget the power of simple stretching. Back-releasing stretches can go a long way in relieving pain. And staying flexible before spinal stenosis sets in gives you a huge advantage.

Don’t smoke

You should quit smoking for countless reasons, and your spinal stenosis pain is one of them. Here a few of the ways smoking is linked to spinal stenosis:

  • Smoking constricts blood vessels and decreases the blood flow to your spine
  • Smoking intensifies your perception of pain
  • Smoking slows down your ability to heal
  • Smoking makes spinal surgery less successful in about a third of the patients.

Watch your weight

It stands to reason that the more weight you carry, the more pressure you put on your body, especially your back. If you’re overweight or obese, especially if you have extra weight in your abdominal region, the imbalance tilts your pelvis forward and puts strain on your lower back.

Through proper nutrition and a sensible exercise routine, you can realize healthy loss that will help improve your spinal stenosis symptoms. Every pound counts — even a drop of 10% of your body weight will make a difference.

Sit up straight

Posture is everything when it comes to your back health. Unfortunately, so many people neglect proper back mechanics. Here are a few tips.

Learn how to sit in a chair by:

  • Keeping your shoulders back and your bottom touching the back of the chair
  • Making sure your weight is even on both hips
  • Keeping your knees at a right angle with your feet flat on the floor
  • Not crossing your legs
  • Getting up and stretching every half hour
  • Using your legs to lift your body from the chair, not bending or lifting with your back

Learn how to lift a heavy object by:

  • Always bending at your knees, lifting with your legs, and keeping your back straight
  • Tightening your abdominal muscles
  • Not twisting
  • Keeping your feet firmly planted and in a sturdy stance
  • Keeping the load close to your body

When to see a doctor for your spinal stenosis

We love to see patients who have no symptoms of spinal stenosis because it allows us to establish a plan that can help minimize future problems. If you’re concerned about the eventuality of spinal stenosis, come in and see us now.

If you think you already have spinal stenosis, it’s a good idea to come in for an official diagnosis and an assessment of your overall spinal health. Our team can help you reduce your pain through physical therapy, medication, steroid injections, or even surgery when necessary.

Call us today to schedule a consultation. Whether you have spinal stenosis or not, we can help you mitigate back pain and improve your quality of life.

 Dr. Keppler is a practicing surgeon and member of the following organizations:

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