Spinal Stenosis and Chiropractic Care
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal cord canal; a common ailment that compresses the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots. This compression can lead to back and leg pain, cramping of the legs, numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, weakness in the legs preventing comfortable walking and even incontinence (loss of urine control) or paralysis.
The function of the spinal column (made up of spinal bones or vertebrae) is to house and protect the spinal cord (a vital portion of the nervous system) as well as spinal nerve roots (the pathway from the spinal cord to the rest of the body). The nervous system is comprised of the brain, spinal cord and all of the nerves in the body; the nervous system controls and coordinates the functions of all organs, cells, tissues and systems in your body. If the protective spinal column and spinal cord canal are compromised, our level of health and wellness can be dramatically altered.
Signs and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The most common area for canal narrowing is within the lumbar vertebrae (lower back). Often, individuals will have symptoms such as numbness and tingling or pain into the legs and feet, cramping into the legs, loss of sexual function and abnormal bowel or bladder function. Other signs may include pain with walking — especially up or down a hill, ramp or stairs — and is often relieved with sitting or leaning forward.
Spinal stenosis in the cervical spine (or neck) is less common but far more dangerous because it involves direct compression of the spinal cord. Spinal stenosis around the spinal cord could lead the above symptoms as well as create radiating pain, weakness or numbness and tingling to the arms and hands, serious body weakness or even lead to partial or complete body paralysis.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Most commonly, spinal stenosis is caused by osteoarthritis — this condition is due to “wear and tear” on our body by repetitive injuries and stresses. The most common cause of osteoarthritis of the spine is lack of motion or misalignment of the vertebrae. Osteoarthritis causes osteophytes (or bone spurs) which narrow the canal, compressing the spinal cord or spinal nerve. Other causes include:
- Poor posture
- Disc herniation
- Tumors or cysts
- Osteophytes or bone spurs
- Previous injury or surgery to the spine (especially if not treated properly)
- Thickened ligaments (ligamentum flavum and posterior longitudinal ligament) that support the vertebrae
Individuals at risk for spinal stenosis include people over age 50 and people who sit for a majority of their time. Additionally, people may be born with a narrow spinal cord canal — although not common, this is very likely to lead to spinal canal stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis And Osteoarthritis
While osteoarthritis is more common in people over 50 years of age, it can affect anyone with significant amounts of “wear and tear” on their bodies. This can affect areas like the knees, ankles, hands and shoulders as well as the foundation of our body, the spine. When osteoarthritis affects the spine, it can lead to deterioration of the discs (which allow our spine to move properly) and spinal canal stenosis. Stenosis is narrowing of the spinal canal – direct pressure being applied to the spinal nerve roots or spinal cord by ligaments, tumors or cysts, or bone spurs. Pressure causes pain as well as changes in how your body can function and prevent you from living your best quality of life.
While traditional medicine may provide symptomatic relief, it does not always reduce the pressure being applied to the nervous system or prevent progression of the degenerative process. Chiropractic care can help to reduce the pressure on the nerves as well as restore motion and reduce pain levels due to spinal canal stenosis.
Medical Treatment Options for Spinal Stenosis
A number of medical treatment options currently exist for individuals living with spinal canal stenosis, however these options do not correct the cause of the spinal stenosis (or prevent progression of the degenerative process), only manage the pain. Your primary care provider may recommend physical therapy and exercise to strengthen your muscles and support your ability to function more effectively and with less discomfort. Medications, from over-the-counter medications to prescription drugs, can be recommended to relieve pain; as with all medications, side effects will affect your overall health. Cortisone injections, or epidurals, can relieve pain as well; however, often these injections only provide temporary relief. Cortisone injections also come with a number of side effects, including:
- Localized increase in pain
- High blood sugar
- Temporary decrease in immunity
- Localized degeneration
- Nerve damage
Finally, surgery may be recommended – during the procedure, 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 among patients, but one thing that is known for all patients is that while surgery may bring relief, it will not cure spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis.
Chiropractic Treatment and Spinal Stenosis
Chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment option for those who are searching for an alternative and natural method. Techniques include chiropractic spinal adjustments, traction methods, spinal decompression therapy, and flexion-distraction techniques provide relief to symptoms without the side effects of medications or the risks of epidurals or 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, relieve the pressure within the discs and realign 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. At Kempsville Chiropractic, we seek to relieve interference on the nervous system in an effective and conservative manner to improve and preserve your health.
If you are looking for alternatives to medications and surgeries for symptomatic relief, please contact the doctors of Kempsville Chiropractic, 757.467.5258, and arrange for a consultation. If you know of others who can benefit from this article, please share and recommend this article.
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The contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Lombardozzi. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience and research of Dr. Lombardozzi and his staff. Dr. Lombardozzi recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.
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