Spinal Stenosis and Chiropractic Care
Spinal stenosis is defined as the narrowing of the spinal cord canal and/or the nerve root canals. Spinal stenosis can cause back and leg pain, numbness and tingling, as well as weakness and muscle spasms when there is compression on the spinal cord or the spinal nerve roots as they exit the spine. Spinal stenosis can cause lack of control and function of the muscles and organs in the body, and in severe cases, paralysis.
The spinal column is designed to house the nerves and shield them from damage as they travel from the brain to the point in the spine where they exit to control the functions of your muscles and organs, and coordinate that with your brain. Your nervous system, which is consists of the nerves, spinal cord, and brain, controls the function of every organ and muscle in your body. If spinal stenosis causes the nerves to be pinched or compressed, your health and ability to function properly will be negatively impacted.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
Spinal Stenosis most commonly occurs in the lower back (lumbar vertebrae). Symptoms include:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the legs and feet
- Pain running into the legs and feet
- Leg cramps
- Loss of sexual function
- Abnormal bowel or bladder function
- Pain while walking, especially up or down stairs, ramps, or hills.
Spinal Stenosis in the neck (cervical spine) is much more dangerous because there is direct compression of the spinal cord. Symptoms include:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the arms and hands
- Pain radiating into the arms and hands
- Weakness extending into the arms and hands
- Serious weakness to the body
- Can lead to partial or complete body paralysis
Osteoarthritis is the most Common Cause of Spinal Stenosis
Osteoarthritis a common cause of spinal stenosis if a condition of “wear and tear” to the spine due to repetitive stress and injuries. The most common osteoarthritis in the spinal column is the misalignment and lack of movement in the spine. Osteoarthritis causes bone spurs (know as osteophytes), and these osteophytes narrow the spinal canal, which then compresses the spinal nerve or spinal cord. Osteoarthritis can also lead to the deterioration of the disc in the spine. These discs allow our spine to move as designed, and their deterioration will restrict the movement of the spine.
Other Causes of Spinal Stenosis include:
- Cysts or tumors
- Disc herniation
- Osteophytes or bone spurs
- Poor posture
- Previous injury or surgery to the spine (especially if not treated properly)
- Thickened ligaments (ligamentum flavum and posterior longitudinal ligament) that support the vertebrae
- Although rare, some people are born with a narrow spinal cord canal
Spinal Stenosis will cause direct pressure to the spinal core or spinal nerve roots. In addition to causing pain, you can experience changes in the way your body functions, as well as a deterioration in your quality of life.
Medical Treatment Options for Spinal Stenosis
The medical options to treat spinal stenosis that exist do not correct the root cause, nor do they prevent the continued degeneration of the spine. The medical options are designed to manage pain. Physical therapy and exercise may be recommended to increase your ability to function and strengthen your muscles, and medications (either prescription or over-the-counter) may be recommended to help deal with the pain. Medications do not elimination the source of the pain, they simply temporarily mask the pain and often bring unwanted side-effects. Additional options include cortisone injections, or epidurals, to relieve pain as well. Cortisone injections also come with a number of side effects, including high blood sugar, infections, a localized increase in pain and degeneration, nerve damage, and a temporary decrease in your immunity system.
In worse case scenarios, surgery may be recommended. In surgery for spinal stenosis, pieces of the vertebrae, called the lamina, are removed (laminectomy) and then the vertebrae are often fused together, which can limit your range of motion. Results of the surgery will vary from patient to patient, however, while surgery may bring some relief, it will not cure spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis.
Chiropractic Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
While traditional medicine may provide symptomatic relief, it does not always reduce the pressure being applied to the nervous system nor does it prevent the progression of the degenerative process. Chiropractic care can help reduce the pressure on the nerves while restoring your range of motion and reducing pain levels due to spinal stenosis.
Chiropractic care is a proven, safe and effective treatment option for those who are searching for an alternative and natural method to treat spinal stenosis. Techniques used include chiropractic spinal adjustments, spinal decompression therapy, traction methods, and flexion-distraction techniques to provide relief from symptoms without the side effects of medications or the risks of epidurals and surgery. Flexion-distraction is a method offered at our practice that has provided pain relief for patients with spinal canal stenosis. This technique can open the spinal canal space and relieve the pressure within the discs while realigning joints in order to restore motion. Patients in our clinic have in fact reported a reduction in symptoms as well as improved range of motion.
Contact Dr. Steve Silverston at 410.461.3435 if you are looking for alternatives to medications and surgeries for symptomatic relief and arrange for a consultation. If you know of others who can benefit from this article, please share and recommend this article.