Spinal Stenosis and Fatigue

by LMatthews on September 28, 2012

spinal stenosis and fatigue

Spinal stenosis and fatigue are connected in a variety of ways.

A chronic pain condition of any kind can cause fatigue and spinal stenosis is no different. This fatigue may be due to the stress that persistent pain can induce, a result of pain medications or treatments, lack of sleep due to back pain or even a consequence of the pain itself.

Some 70-85% of the adult population is thought to suffer from low back pain during their lives, whether due to a chronic problem or an acute injury or illness. Spinal stenosis, pinched nerves and back pain or leg pain can cause tired legs and general fatigue, with serious ramifications for daily living.

Spinal Stenosis and Leg Fatigue

Lumbar spinal stenosis and low back pain may be accompanied by neurogenic claudication and resulting tiredness or feeling of heaviness in the legs. Patients with lumbar spinal stenosis may feel the need to rest frequently even on short walks, or may become tired simply by standing in the same position for a period of time. Sufferers often find that regular sitting, leaning forwards, or bending over a shopping cart or walker help relieve such back pain and fatigue and that bending backwards can cause excruciating pain.

Spinal Stenosis Medications and Fatigue

Spinal stenosis and fatigue can also be connected through the use of medications for nerve pain from pinched nerves. Many such drugs have potential side-effects that include drowsiness or feelings of somnolence and fatigue. It may be that lowering the dose of medications can help lift such feelings of tiredness although patients will then need to find alternative ways to manage spinal stenosis pain and other symptoms.


Narcotics given after back surgery or in cases of severe back pain are particularly problematic in regards to fatigue, as well as being highly addictive. In most cases the use of narcotics is restricted to short periods to reduce such risks but all patients should be made aware of the potential adverse effects of medications for spinal stenosis symptoms.

Anxiety, Depression, Spinal Stenosis Surgery and Fatigue

Fatigue may affect those with spinal stenosis through stress and anxiety, especially in cases where back surgery is scheduled and the patient is fearful or where the condition does not appear treatable and the patient faces a lifetime of pain and disability. In the former case the fatigue may pass given appropriate reassurance and education about the upcoming surgery, or after the surgery itself has happened and the benefits are becoming apparent. In the latter case the patient may find it helpful to consult a pain management specialist to find better coping mechanisms for chronic pain.

Coping with Chronic Pain and Fatigue

Mindfulness training, physical therapy, group therapy and other forms of conservative treatment can all help allay fears, improve mobility and reduce self-imposed activity limitations and, subsequently help with fatigue connected to anxiety and depression. There is also something of a vicious cycle with back pain and fatigue as the pain may prevent sufferers from staying physically fit and healthy in general and this can lead to fatigue. Chronic pain from spinal stenosis may also cause patients to become unable to care for themselves and nutritional deficiencies or insufficiencies can arise, creating problems of fatigue, increased risk of infection and a variety of other problems.

Treating Back Pain and Fatigue

Anyone suffering from spinal stenosis and fatigue should discuss their symptoms with their physician. Oftentimes, fatigue is a result of chronic sleeping difficulties due to back pain and it may be that sufferers awake without feeling refreshed in the morning. Many back pain patients do not realize that their sleep is being so severely disrupted and so fail to make changes that could help attain proper rest. Such changes could be as simple as using a long body pillow to provide proper lumbar support, or changing to a firmer mattress or thicker pillow. A simple change in medication or treatment could also make a huge difference, as could some reassuring words from an experienced professional. Fatigue is not inevitable with spinal stenosis and there are many ways to combat this symptom that may arise in tandem with back pain.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Diane October 4, 2012 at 9:43 am

I would try spine physical therapy and pretty much everything else you can to avoid needing back surgery.

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