By Abby Sims
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The Mets have cause for concern regarding third baseman David Wright’s recent diagnosis of spinal stenosis. Though assistant GM John Ricco reportedly claimed that “doctors aren’t that worried about it,” stenosis – which is a narrowing of the spinal canal housing the spinal cord and/or the exit points for the nerves (neural foramina) – isn’t something that just goes away.
First sidelined with right hamstring symptoms in mid-April, Wright evidently complained of issues with his back early this month. MLB.com reports that the 32-year-old, who remains on the DL, is undergoing a program of meds and rehab with a focus on core strengthening.
Stenosis can occur in any area of the spine, but is typically diagnosed in the low back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine). The condition can result in compression of the cord itself, as well as to the nerve roots. In the low back, this pressure generally causes neurologic symptoms that radiate to the lower body. The resulting pain, numbness or weakness isn’t always accompanied by back pain. Because different positions of the spine can either exacerbate or alleviate the compression, symptoms are often transient. Upright and extension postures (such as walking and running) are likely to increase discomfort, while flexion postures (such as sitting or side-lying in a fetal-like position) may provide some relief.
Oftentimes, in the case of milder cases of lumbar stenosis, pain does not present until an offending activity persists beyond a threshold for tolerance. Ceasing the activity may be enough to provide relief … until the next time. A stronger core (which is more than just the abdominal musculature) can help to lessen stresses to the lumbo-pelvic-hip region and thus minimize symptoms. Reducing any localized inflammation that may occur with a flare-up can alleviate some of the pressure as well, thus Wright’s current program.
There are a number of possible causative factors that predispose to spinal stenosis. Those most often implicated are degenerative diseases of the discs or joints (arthropathy) and degenerative spondylolysthesis – when the vertebrae are not in the correct alignment and one or more rest too close to the spinal canal or narrow the spaces where the nerve roots exit.
Typically a condition that affects the over-50 set because of the degenerative circumstances that generally lead up to it, stenosis clearly isn’t exclusive to this population. For those diagnosed earlier, there may be a genetic component.
You may remember that former Giants running back David Wilson retired last year due to stenosis in his cervical spine, a condition that is particularly dangerous in football. Cooper Manning, Eli and Peyton’s older brother, had to forego a football career — even at the collegiate level — because of a very early diagnosis of cervical stenosis.
Wishing Wright the best possible outcome as he works to get back on the field.