Spinal Stenosis

   Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments experienced in the United States currently. It is estimated that almost 75% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime. For some, this back pain can be chronic and debilitating. Just like any major joint in the body, the back, or spine, also develops arthritis and degenerates gradually over time. Often, this "wear and tear" can lead to narrowing of the space within and between the joints of the spine causing what is called "spinal stenosis". The weight absorbing discs in between the bones of the spine also deteriorate with time, losing height, and may budge into the spinal canal causing further narrowing.

   Within the spine live many nerves originating from the spinal cord which extends outwards to all the muscle, tissue and organs of the body that control our daily locomotion and bodily functions. When narrowing or "stenosis" occurs at any area within the spine, the nerves that pass through may become compressed and irritated.  This irritation can lead to a variety of symptoms ranging from pain, numbness, tingling and "electrical sensations", to muscle cramping and early muscle fatigue with simple activities. People with spinal stenosis may also complain of pain radiating into hips, leg and feet, accompanying early muscle fatigue with walking or prolong standing. Stenosis can also affect the neck, or "cervical spine" which can lead to similar type symptoms in the shoulders, arms and hands. With all of the information that has been uncovered about spinal stenosis it is still unclear whether there is a correlation between the risk of developing spinal stenosis and sex, ethnicity or genetic predisposition.

What can you do about it?

   If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is recommended to have a thorough evaluation from your primary care physician as well as an orthopedic spine specialist, as these symptoms may have a variety of other potential causes. Inform your physician of all medication you are taking and any present or past medical conditions. If you do have spinal stenosis, there are treatment options available. Many patients with mild to moderate cases of stenosis will respond to courses of anti-inflammatory medications as well as physical therapy. Physical therapy is targeted at strengthening the "core" or the muscles that support the lower back and over time can improve posture, strength, flexibility and endurance when practiced regularly. In more severe cases, patients may benefit from cortisone injections or possible surgery to relieve the compressed nerve.

For an evaluation, please call 847-690-1776 Dr. Gregory N. Drake

Physical Therapist and Your Balance Problems
Physical therapists offer numerous options for treating balance problems, based on each person’s needs. They are trained to evaluate multiple systems of the body, including the muscles, joints, inner ear, eye tracking ability, skin sensation, and position awareness in the joints (proprioception). Physical therapists are experts in prescribing active movement techniques and physical exercise to improve these systems, including strengthening, stretching, proprioception exercises, visual tracking, and inner ear retraining. 
Your physical therapist can help treat your balance problems by identifying their causes, and designing an individual treatment program to address your specific needs, including exercises you can do at home. Your physical therapist can help you:
Reduce Fall Risk. Your physical therapist will assess problem footwear and hazards in your home that increase your risk of balance problems or falling. Household hazards include loose rugs, poor lighting, unrestrained pets, or other possible obstacles.
Reduce Fear of Falling. By addressing specific problems that are found during the examination, your physical therapist will help you regain confidence in your balance and your ability to move freely, and perform daily activities. As you build confidence in your balance and physical ability, you will be better able to enjoy your normal daily activities.
Improve Mobility. Your physical therapist will help you regain the ability to move around with more ease, coordination, and confidence. Your physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment and exercise program to gradually build your strength and movement skills.
Improve Balance. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises for both static balance (sitting or standing still) and dynamic balance (keeping your balance while moving). Your physical therapist will progressively increase these exercises as your skills improve.
Improve Strength. Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to address muscle weakness, or to improve your overall muscle strength. Strengthening muscles in the trunk, hip, and stomach (ie, “core”) can be especially helpful in improving balance. Various forms of weight training can be performed with exercise bands, which help avoid joint stress.
Improve Movement. Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement in any of your joints that are stiff. These might begin with "passive" motions that the physical therapist performs for you, and progress to active exercises that you do yourself.
Improve Flexibility and Posture. Your physical therapist will determine if any of your major muscles are tight, and teach you how to gently stretch them. The physical therapist will also assess your posture, and teach you exercises to improve your ability to maintain proper posture. Good posture can improve your balance.
Increase Activity Levels. Your physical therapist will discuss activity goals with you, and design an exercise program to address your individual needs and goals. Your physical therapist will help you reach those goals in the safest,
fastest, and most effective way possible.
Once your treatment course is completed, your physical therapist may recommend that you transition to a community group to continue your balance exercises, and maintain a fall-proof home environment. Many such community groups exist, hosted by hospitals, senior centers, or volunteer groups.
Your physical therapist may recommend that you consult with other medical providers, including:
  • An eye doctor, to check your current vision needs.
  • An ear doctor, to check your outer and inner ear status.
  • Your personal physician, to review your current medications to see if any of them may be affecting your balance.
Can this Injury or Condition be Prevented?
To help prevent balance problems, your physical therapist will likely advise you to:
  • Keep moving. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Perform a challenging physical activity each day to keep your muscles strong and flexible, and your heart and lungs strong. Use your body as much as you can to walk, climb stairs, garden, wash dishes by hand, and other daily activities that keep you moving. If you work out or follow a fitness program, keep it up!
  • Have yearly checkups for vision and hearing. Make sure your vision prescription is up-to-date.
  • Carefully manage chronic diseases like diabetes, whose long-term side effects can include balance problems. These side effects can be greatly reduced by following the recommended diet and medication guidelines given to you by your physician.
  • Monitor your medications. Make note of any medications that you think may be affecting your sense of balance, and talk to your physician about them.
  • Report any falls to your physician and physical therapist immediately. They will evaluate and address the possible causes.
Your physical therapist will also prescribe a home exercise program specific to your needs to prevent future problems or injuries. This program can include strength and flexibility exercises, posture retraining, eye-tracking and vestibular exercises, and balance exercises.
Physical Therapy Solutions is the only facility in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with a comprehensive balance and fall risk program along with a strengthening program.  
Assisted with a medical history from your doctor, we can perform specific tests to determine your ability to maintain your balance as well as your risk of falling. Our computerized equilibrium tests can evaluate the sensory and motor parts of your balance system. Sensory tests assess inner ears, eyes and sense of touch in your feet and joints that contribute to balance control. Our motor tests will measure your ability to execute coordinated movements, both voluntary and involuntary, to maintain your balance. All of these tests will help define the cause of your balance problem and are the foundation of devising a unique, individualized program for you. We utilize a state-of-the-art balance machine and our balance therapy programs have a 98% balance improvement success rate.
Rupangi Patel PT, Co-founder/CEO of Physical Therapy Solutions Group, is a physical therapist with more than 28 years of experience gleaned over two continents. She has been serving the Northwest suburban area since 1990 and she opened her own clinic in 2005. Rupangi is skilled in evaluating and treating various orthopedic and neurological conditions and has expertise in vestibular rehabilitation. She has undergone extensive training in the treatment of patients with balance and mobility ailments, with a particular focus on dizziness. Rupangi and her team of six therapists have helped thousands of patients get back to enjoying their daily living. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call: Physical Therapy Solutions 847-240-2000.