Could Your Chronic Constipation Be Due To Spinal Stenosis?

If you've noticed some changes in your digestive habits recently, you may be reaching for stool softeners or gas reducers to try to alleviate some of the symptoms and physical effects of chronic constipation. While constipation alone isn't a disorder, it can point to a variety of other conditions, from a lack of fiber in one's diet to irritable bowel syndrome or, surprisingly, a lumbar condition called spinal stenosis. Read on to learn more about the interrelationship between lower back conditions like spinal stenosis and digestive troubles like constipation, as well as some treatments that may bring relief:

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis involves the compression of many of the nerves in your lower spine. This compression can cause sensations ranging from heat and cold to tingling or a burning or stabbing pain. Spinal stenosis is usually caused by the natural changes in the body that can accompany aging, leading the vertebrae that surround your spinal cord more vulnerable to tiny stress fractures that can compress the bones together, but this condition can be exacerbated by highly physical jobs or certain sports-related injuries. 

Why can spinal stenosis lead to constipation?

When the nerves in your lower back become compressed and painful, your body subconsciously tries to ease this pain by changing the way you sit, stand, and walk. Many individuals who suffer from spinal stenosis develop a slouching posture, which can change the speed with which you digest food and often cause waste to sit in your lower colon for too long, causing constipation. 

In other cases, spinal stenosis can have a far more direct impact on your digestive system by actually compressing the nerves that send signals to your digestive system to move food and waste along. Removing this compression can "wake up" these nerves, restoring your digestive habits back to normal over a fairly short period of time.

What are your treatment options?

Treatment for spinal stenosis can largely depend on its severity. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to separate the bones and remove the restriction and source of compression for your spinal nerves. In other cases, this condition can be managed with physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, or even stretch-based exercises like yoga or Pilates. By consulting with your doctor and receiving an official diagnosis, you'll be able to develop a treatment plan that's appropriate for your age, level of physical activity, and other individual factors.

Contact a medical office like Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates for more information and assistance.