If you have chronic or severe back pain, you may wonder if you have spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a serious condition that can cause a major disruption to your daily life. With traditional western medicine, treating spinal stenosis usually results in a major surgery. Unfortunately, surgery does not always completely fix the issue and comes with a long list of potential risks. Chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis is both safe and effective.
Your spine, or back bone, supports the body but also houses the spinal cord. There are a series of small openings toward the back of each vertebrae called foramina. This series of openings make up the spinal canal and houses the spinal cord. There are also small openings in the bony ridges that run down the back of the spine. These are the intervertebral foramina. These holes allow the spinal nerves to exit the spinal canal.
Spinal stenosis is a term that describes a narrowing of these foramina. When the spinal canal or intervertebral foramina become narrower, it puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerve bundles. When these spaces become too narrow it can interfere with the normal function of the nerves.
Depending on the location of the narrowing, or how much pressure it puts on the nerves, it can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and loss of function. How these symptoms manifest can vary quite a lot and may come on gradually or have a sudden onset. Symptoms may include:
- Pain – Spinal stenosis is most common in the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) spine. The pain may be dull and localized between the shoulders or just in the lower back. Or it may be a sharp, almost electric pain that radiates into your hips and legs or through your shoulders and into the arms. It is common for the pain to vary over time but usually worsens with certain activities.
- Tingling and Numbness – Some patients may not experience very much pain. Instead they may have a lot of tingling and numbness. Depending on the location of the stenosis, it can affect various parts of the body. Some patients experience numbness at the site or that radiates into the limbs. In some cases it can cause numbness in other areas as well.
- Weakness – For your muscles to do their job of supporting your weight or providing motion, your brain needs to be able to ‘feel’ them. Reduced sensation in the limbs can result in difficulty with balance and coordination. If caudal nerves become compressed it can result in muscle weakness in other parts of the body. For example, some patients with spinal stenosis may experience urinary or bowel incontinence.
Spinal stenosis is most typically caused by degenerative conditions. These include:
- Osteoarthritis – This type of arthritis attacks the cartilage in the spine, causing it to break down. This alone can put pressure on the nerves of the spine. But when the cartilage becomes too thin the bones rub against each other, forming bone spurs. These bone spurs contribute to the intervertebral foramina becoming even smaller.
- Degenerative Disc Disease – Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the cartilage between vertebrae becomes thinner. This puts pressure on nerves as they exit the spinal canal. Degenerative disc disease also can cause these cartilaginous discs to bulge. Bulging discs can push into the spinal canal, putting pressure on the spinal cord.
- Ligament Thickening or Buckling – With some conditions, the connective tissue in the spine can ossify. They thicken and harden, turning into bone. These tendons pass through the spinal canal, so when they harden it puts pressure on the spinal cord and nearby spinal nerves. Some conditions cause the ligaments to weaken, allowing them to buckle into the spinal canal.
There are other conditions that can contribute to spinal stenosis. These may include spinal deformities such as scoliosis, tumors, or cyst growths. Spinal stenosis can also be the result of injury. It is common among car accident victims or when an injury results in a dislocation or fracture of the vertebrae.
Who Is at Risk?
Spinal stenosis is most typically the result of a degenerative condition. These conditions are most common in individuals who are over the age of 50. However, it can affect those who are younger. In younger people it is more commonly the result of a spinal deformity or genetic disease.
Chiropractic Treatment Can Help
Before your chiropractor can begin treatment for your spinal stenosis it is important to determine what is causing it. Depending on the cause of your condition they can use a variety of techniques to relieve your pain and improve your condition. These techniques might include physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and regenerative medicine.
Regardless of the cause of your condition, poor posture is bound to make your symptoms worse. If not addressed, poor posture will also worsen your condition over time. Physical therapy addresses deficits in muscle strength and flexibility to improve your posture. This also helps to maintain length in the spine to ensure there is plenty of space for your spinal cord and nerves.
A healthy spine runs straight down the center of the back with a mild front-to-back ‘s’ curve. A right-to-left curvature, or scoliosis, can put pressure on the spinal cord. If the natural ‘s’ curve of the spine is too flat or too pronounced it can also put pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. These misalignments also contribute to worsening symptoms in patients with degenerative conditions. Chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis involves restoring proper alignment. Proper alignment will also create length in the spine to take pressure off of your nerves.
Regenerative medicine focuses on helping the body heal itself using the unique healing properties of human stem cells. These are cells that are in the body, present from birth, that are not specialized yet. This means that they have the potential to develop into any type of cell in the body. When stem cells encounter damaged tissue it triggers it to begin developing into that tissue type to repair the damage. Regenerative medicine can reduce or eliminate pain by healing damaged tissues.
Is It Effective?
Traditionally spinal stenosis eventually results in spinal surgery. Surgery is expensive, risky, has a long recovery, and may not fully address underlying issues. A recent study shows that patients who receive chiropractic treatment reported the greatest improvement at two months versus their counterparts who received traditional non-surgical medical treatment and those who received exercise classes. By six months all groups reported a similar reduction in symptoms. What this tells us is that chiropractic treatment improves the condition of patients with spinal stenosis faster, and without surgery.
Call Freedom Health Centers at (972) 542-3300 for more information about chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis.