If you’ve been diagnosed with or think you might have spinal stenosis, you’re not alone. Each day, millions of people across the globe struggle with spinal stenosis pain. In fact, it’s the number one reason why people age 65 and above are receiving spine surgery.
However, invasive surgery and injections are not the only way to find relief from your spinal stenosis pain. Chiropractic spinal stenosis treatment is all-natural, effective, and non-invasive. Discover how the dedicated physicians at ChiroCare of Florida can help you with your pain today.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
In the medical field, stenosis refers to the abnormal narrowing of a body channel. Stemming from the ancient Greek word stenos meaning narrow, when combined with the word “spinal,” it defines a narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal cord and nerves.
The spine runs from the base of skull down into the hips. It is composed of small bones, known as vertebrae. Each vertebrae is connected by a set of facet joints and cushioned by a spinal disc, which helps to absorb the shock placed on the body during routine actions, such as walking, running, and so on. These structures of the spine form a column known as the spinal canal, which protects the sensitive spinal cord and spinal nerves.
In patients with spinal stenosis, the spaces within the spinal canal narrow. This puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine, causing pain and numbness, as well as issues with walking and balance.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Causes of spinal stenosis are varied, but they can be classified into two types: those who inherit the condition and those who acquire it. For those who inherit the condition, they are born with a spinal canal that is narrower than average. This congenital form of spinal stenosis often causes the patient to suffer the negative effects of the condition earlier in life.
While it is possible to be born with spinal stenosis, the condition is more commonly acquired. This typically occurs as part of the natural degeneration of the spine. As we age, wear and tear of the aging process can cause involuntary changes to the spine which can result in stenosis. Causes of acquired spinal stenosis may include:
- Osteoarthritis. Known as “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis can cause the development of bone spurs which contribute to the narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Overgrowth of Bone. While wear and tear damage from osteoarthritis can prompt the formation of bone spurs, so can Paget’s disease. A bone disease that typically affects adults, Paget’s disease can also can cause bone overgrowth in the spine.
- Herniated Discs. Spinal discs located between vertebrae tend to dry out with age. As a shock absorber, discs are originally full of water. As we age, the discs lose their water content, which can cause cracks in their exterior. When a disc cracks, or herniates, the softer inner material leaks out and presses on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Spondylolisthesis. When a vertebrae slips forward onto the vertebra below it causes the vertebrae foramina to narrow. This can stifle spinal nerves, causing pain.
- Spinal Injuries. Trauma from falls or auto accidents can cause fractures of dislocations of one or more vertebrae. This dislocated bone can damage the contents of the spinal canal, causing swelling of nearby tissue that can place pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.
- Thickened Ligaments. Ligaments are strong tissue which helps hold the bones of the spine together. Over time, ligaments can become stiff and thickened, bulging into and narrowing the spinal canal.
- Tumors. Though they are rare, abnormal growths can form inside the spinal cord, within the membranes that cover the spinal cord, or in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
The spine is classified into three separate sections: the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine. Spinal stenosis can occur in any area of the spine, however it is most common in the lumbar spine and the cervical spine. As such, symptoms will vary depending on where the spine has narrowed.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis: The cervical spine extends from the base of the skull to the top of the shoulders, and we more commonly refer to it as the neck. Symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis include:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Weakness in the hand, arm, foot, or leg
- Numbness or tingling in the hand, arm, foot, or leg
- Problems with walking or balance
- In severe cases, urinary urgency and incontinence
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: The lumbar spine is known as the lower back. It extends from the bottom of the ribs to the coccyx, or tailbone. Spinal stenosis of the lumbar spine is the most common form of stenosis, and many patients seek chiropractic for lumbar spinal stenosis treatment. Symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis include:
- Numbness or tingling in a foot or leg
- Weakness in the foot or leg
- Pain or cramping in one or both legs after standing or walking for extended periods of time
- Low back pain
- Sciatica, or radiating pain in the buttocks and legs
Thoracic Spinal Stenosis: The thoracic spine is the middle back, extending from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the ribs. Stenosis in this area is rare, but symptoms include:
- Pain in the ribs or internal organs
- Pain the radiates down the back of the legs
- Problems with balance or coordination
- Issues with bowel or bladder function
Non-Surgical Spinal Stenosis Treatment
A common misconception of spinal stenosis is that it can only be treated by surgical intervention. While some cases of stenosis may require surgery to widen or remove blockages from the spinal canal, a plethora of non-surgical treatment can be used to reduce pain symptoms and approve function. Non-surgical spinal stenosis treatment includes:
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Hot/cold therapy
Additionally, an effective method of relieving spinal stenosis pain is chiropractic treatment. In fact, chiropractic can help to prevent the condition from worsening.
Chiropractic Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Acquired spinal stenosis can be difficult to reverse, especially if it is caused by degenerative wear and tear on the spine that comes with age. However, a chiropractor can help to slow the progression of spinal stenosis, and help to manage pain symptoms.
Generally speaking, a chiropractor helps your spine maintain proper alignment such that your nervous system can transmit messages without any blockages. As a result, your body functions effectively. However, in patients with spinal stenosis, the compression of spinal nerves and the narrowing of the spinal canal can inhibit nerve passageways.
To begin chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis, a chiropractor will first perform a series of tests to better understand where exactly in the spine is being affected by stenosis. This includes a variety of medical imaging, including:
- An X-ray of the spine to check for osteoarthritis, bone spurs, and narrowing of the spinal canal
- A computed tomography (CT) scan, for a detailed image of the spinal canal
- A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the spine to view the spinal cord and nerves
- An EMG (electromyogram) to observe the nerves going to your legs
A chiropractor will also thoroughly examine a patient’s medical history. Typically, the progression of stenosis will have indicators, such as the development of osteoarthritis, a lessening of space between vertebrae, and so on.
Once a chiropractor has identified where in the spine has been affected, they will apply gentle adjustments to help restore range of motion and widen space in the spinal canal for nerve flow. Back adjustments are a short, targeted thrust to the vertebrae which will restore bones to their natural alignment in the spine. If stenosis has been acquired through a herniated disc or spondylolisthesis, a chiropractor will focus targeted adjustments to the damaged vertebrae. By also incorporating soothing treatments such as ultrasound therapy and cryotherapy, a chiropractor can help to repair the disc and remove inflammation, thus widening the space in the spinal canal.
Living with Spinal Stenosis
It is possible to live an active, happy lifestyle with spinal stenosis. A chiropractor can help guide you in the right direction, providing nutritional and diet support that can help you maintain a healthy diet. Your chiropractor can also provide you with a series of strengthening exercises that will not exacerbate pain.
Living with spinal stenosis, you can take several measures to slow progression and naturally limit pain. While there is no cure for this disease, steps you can take to feel better include:
- Routine Exercise. Aim for regular exercise at least three times a week for about 30 minutes. Start slowly with forward-bending exercises to gradually build strength. As you begin to feel stronger, add walking or swimming to your routine.
- Modify Activity. You know your body better than anyone else. Avoid activity that can trigger or worsen pain, such as lifting heavy objects or walking long distances.
- Topical Pain Relievers. Try over-the-counter topical pain relievers to massage onto the skin and help reduce pain.
- Curb Bad Habits. Stop smoking and reduce alcohol consumption.
- Stay Hydrated. When you’re dehydrated, so is your spine. This can worsen the narrowing of the spine, exacerbating pain. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
- Receive Regular Care. Routine visits with your chiropractor can not only strengthen the body, but it can also lessen pain symptoms.
If you’re suffering spinal stenosis symptoms, you are not alone. Help is closer than you think. With 11 offices throughout the South Florida area, ChiroCare of Florida is ready to provide you with the spinal stenosis treatment you deserve. Contact us today.