Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, is a condition that can squeeze sensitive spinal nerves. Chiropractic treatment is an all-natural, non-invasive method of helping relieve painful symptoms as well as addressing spinal stenosis directly at the source. If you're suffering from spinal stenosis at the lumbar, thoracic, or cervical spine, it might be time to explore chiropractic as an option.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a condition caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal. The condition gets its name from the Greek word stenosis, meaning "choking." Spinal stenosis is most common in people over 50 years of age, as the natural wear and tear on spinal discs and vertebrae typically result in the gradual degeneration of the spinal discs that causes stenosis.
The spinal canal houses the spinal cord, a key component of the central nervous system as well as soft tissue such as ligaments, veins, and dura, the membrane protecting the spinal cord. The average canal size is 14 mm wide, however, approximately 10 mm of the canal is occupied by the spinal cord and soft tissue, leaving little room for much else.
As we age, the vertebrae of the spine may develop arthritis, intervertebral discs may bulge, and the ligaments that connect the vertebrae may buckle. All of these changes can lead to spinal stenosis, which causes the space within the spinal canal to narrow. Spinal stenosis can occur at all three levels of the spine, however, it is more prevalent among the lumbar spine and the cervical spine.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
When the spinal canal narrows, it pinches or "chokes" the spinal cord. When this happens, radiating pain, weakness, and numbness can occur in parts of the spine. Symptoms of spinal stenosis will vary depending on whether the stenosis is located at the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine.
Symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis include:
- Neck pain
- Numbness or tingling in the arm, hand, leg, or foot
- Weakness in the arm, hand, leg, or foot
- Problems with walking and balance
- In severe cases, urinary urgency and incontinence
Thoracic spinal stenosis is more rare than cervical or lumbar stenosis, as the thoracic spine is not as mobile as the neck and lower back. However, the thoracic vertebrae are joined to the ribs and support the body’s ability to rotate and move from side to side.
Symptoms of thoracic spinal stenosis include:
- Pain in the ribs
- Localized pain in the affected area of the back
- Pain radiating down the back or legs
- Aching in the legs that leads to difficulty walking
- Pain in one or more internal organs
Lastly, lumbar spinal stenosis is arguably the most common form of stenosis. This is because the lumbar spine carries the weight of the upper body, as well as the weight of any additional items you’re carrying. Your lower back also bends and twists more than the upper back, making it more susceptible to injury.
Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include:
- Numbness or tingling in the legs or feet
- Weakness in the legs or feet
- Pain or cramping in one or both legs after standing or walking for long periods of time
- Pain that usually eases when you bend forward or sit
- Back pain
Can Chiropractic Help?
Chiropractic approaches spinal stenosis holistically, meaning that a chiropractor will take into account your symptoms, the current state of your spine, how your body is feeling, what makes your symptoms better or worse, and what you feel comfortable doing. A chiropractor will first request medical imaging such as an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan to detect which level of the spine the stenosis is occurring.
After determining the precise source of your pain, a chiropractor will work to ease the nerve compression that is being caused by the stenosis. Types of spinal stenosis treatment include:
- Manual spinal adjustments
- Ultrasound therapy
- Electric stimulation (E-stim)
- Massage therapy
- Stretches and exercise
- Flexion/extension technique
- Lifestyle advice
Chiropractic therapy aims to widen the space available for the spinal cord within the spinal canal. By correcting the displacement of spinal discs, relieving tension held in tight muscles, and removing the pressure from spinal nerves, a patient with spinal stenosis can experience lessened symptoms.
Moreover, chiropractic care is drastically less invasive than other treatment options such as injections and open spine surgery, plus it requires no harmful medications. In six independent medical studies, chiropractic care was shown to improve pain symptoms resulting from spinal stenosis.
If you've been suffering from spinal stenosis in either the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine, or have felt symptoms that you believe can be spinal stenosis, visit a ChiroCare of Florida office as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule your appointment, and begin living life pain-free.