Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces in the spinal column narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and associated nerves. Spinal stenosis usually involves one or more of the three main spinal areas: the spinal canal in the center of the vertebral column, the canals located at the roots of spinal cord nerves, or the spaces between the vertebrae through which nerves leave the spine and go to the rest of the body. The condition is most commonly seen due to degenerative “wear and tear” conditions of the spine.
Depending on the location of the stenosis, different areas of the body may be affected. Stenosis on the lower part of the spinal cord can cause pain or numbness in the legs, while pressure on the upper part of the spinal cord can cause similar problems in the shoulders.
The condition most commonly affects men and women over 50 years of age. However, it may also occur in younger people who have been injured or have conditions that result in a narrowing of the spinal canal, such as achondroplasia (dwarfism).
Diagnosis of spinal stenosis may be made through taking a medical history, thorough physical examination, and imaging tests such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans. While there is no cure for spinal stenosis, traditional treatment may involve medications and/or surgery.
Surgery is invasive, expensive and painful, and the medications may have significant side effects. In addition, medications often don’t do anything to resolve the cause of the pain; they simply mask it.
Conservative Approach to Stenosis
Chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis avoids both medications and surgery. It is based on the idea that restricted spinal movement can result in pain and dysfunction.
Stenosis is definitely a structural issue – chemical approaches (pain medications) may affect the effect of the stenosis (pain symptoms), but may not address the cause.
In contrast, chiropractic adjustments may be used to restore movement and function. If stenosis is caused by abnormal wear and tear due to misalignment, further stenosis can be prevented by correcting this alignment.
Spinal decompression therapy, a treatment in which the bones of the spine are gently pulled apart using traction, can also be used to restore function lost due to spinal stenosis. By increasing the space between the vertebrae, pressure on the nerves can be relieved and pain significantly reduced.
The degree of success of chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis depends on many factors, including the patient’s age, the length of time the stenosis has been present, and the presence of concurrent conditions that may complicate diagnosis, treatment or rehabilitation. A good chiropractor will work with other health care professionals as needed to ensure that you get the most holistic and best possible care for your specific symptoms.