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Fewer Adults Smoking: July 31, 2013

Chronic pain was leaving Alan Schubert weak in the knees.

“I was just getting slower and slower and it was getting more painful and then my knees started to swell up,” says Alan Schubert.

Turns out the root of Schubert’s pain was in his back. It is a common scenario, people feel pain somewhere, but it originates somewhere else. In particular when it comes to the back and nerve pain.

“Alan’s symptoms were very typical of spinal stenosis. He presented with bilateral knee pain and leg pain in the thighs, which was worse with walking and relieved with rest,” says Dr. Christopher Dawson, physical medicine & rehabilitation physician on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Spinal stenosis is a condition that involves a narrowing of the spinal canal, which houses our nerve roots. Once forced to squeeze into a tight space, the nerves become pinched and that leads to swelling and pain.

“The nerve roots become inflamed as their space becomes constricted and that causes inflammation of the nerves and thereby the symptoms. Whether it be pain in the back or hips and legs,” says Dr. Dawson.

The diagnosis is confirmed through an MRI. Treatment begins with activity modification and physical therapy. Persistent pain may require injections.

“An epidermal steroid injection involves placement of a spinal needle into the epidermal space and then injection of corticosteroid as well as normal saline, which then bathes the irritated nerve roots thereby decreasing inflammation and decreasing pain,” says Dr. Dawson.

That was the route Schubert chose.

“And I’m telling you, the next day it was like a miracle. I got up, I walked, it was just crazy,” says Schubert.

After targeting his troubles, Schubert took a vacation to Canada, leaving his pain far behind.