What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is painful and difficult for people to live with. While medications may mask the symptoms, and this is not always the case for every patient, chiropractic care might be more helpful for bringing relief to those who suffer from this condition. There are none of the side effects to seeking care from a chiropractor that would come with taking potentially harmful medications.
It is when the spinal column narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord, spinal stenosis occurs. The painful condition tends to happen with age, as the disks of the spine bulge. The ligaments and bones in the spine thicken due to arthritis or inflammation. Other disorders, including some bone diseases, herniated disks, injuries, and tumors might also be the root cause of spinal stenosis. Patients must then not only manage their spinal stenosis but then also the other disorder that caused the disc bulging in the first place.
A chiropractor is able to treat all of the conditions and more. The symptoms are progressive, and they can involve one or both sides of the body. Patients may potentially experience numbness in the limbs, back, or neck, as well as weakness. The effects of the condition will become worse when patients stand or walk; sitting or leaning may be what alleviates some of the symptoms. Over time, spinal stenosis can lead to poor balance and even difficulties controlling bowels and urination.1
Physical therapy is generally the first course of action recommended. The physical therapist will use stretches to reduce pain, and they will teach the patient exercises. Patients are expected to be compliant and follow these exercises at home to maintain wellness and continue treatment when they are not visiting their physical therapist. The patient should eventually be able to get to the point where they are able to keep up their own, optimal physical condition.
Patients can also seek massage therapy and acupuncture as additional, complementary treatment options for this condition. Heat and cold therapy may also be employed by the physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist, or by the patient at home.
There are also various medications that can be prescribed, but all medications carry the risk of side effects.2 Typical prescriptions include NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.), muscle relaxants, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, and opioids (oxycodone, Vicodin, etc.). The latter category might lead to the patient developing a dependence to these opiods and serious addiction problems. This in turn creates a whole new set of issues that the patient did not previously have to find treatment for.3
Some doctors may recommend surgery, especially when patients become too numb or immobilized. Even after surgery, pain can remain, and spinal fusion, formaminotomy, and laminectomy, unfortunately, might not even resolve the situation. Patients may even be referred for multiple surgeries, as each one alone might not be permanently helpful. Spinal surgery could lead the back to become more stressed, negating any potential benefits that the patient could have gotten from the surgery in the first place. Even anesthesia carries its own potentially dangerous complications, especially if the patient has to go under for multiple surgeries.
This is why patients should look into other treatment options first. Massage, physical therapy, and acupuncture are three of these alternative treatment options that do not carry the same potentially unsafe side effects. Chiropractic care is another one of these safer, alternative treatment options.4
Spinal Stenosis and Chiropractic Options
Research has shown that the “chiropractic treatment is about as effective as conventional, nonoperative treatments for acute back pain”. This is good news for patients with spinal stenosis, as chiropractic care, being totally natural and safe, does not carry the side effects, complications, and risks of medication or surgery. Care provided by a chiropractor is not a potentially harmful commitment for a patient. There is no reason not to try this alternative treatment option before turning to more permanent and only potential solutions like medications and surgery.
A chiropractor is also able to treat other ailments and physical conditions that the patient might have, efficiently treating multiple disorders at once. Chiropractic adjustments of the spinal column can resolve alignment issues and reduce pressure on the nerves, pressure which would then later cause other physical issues, by increasing the space between the vertebrae.5
Chiropractic treatment should be sought early on, when the patient first feels the pain, not after years of degeneration and potentially harmful improper compensation that affects other areas of the body, in order to have the most rapid treatment outcome.6 In other words, the earlier the better. In general, chiropractic therapy options can include flexion distraction therapy, drop table therapy, manual soft tissue manipulation, heat therapy, electric muscle stimulation, and therapeutic ultrasound. In addition, some DCs may recommend that patients use supplements and herbs to treat the inflammation, aiding in the speed of recovery.7
1, 2, 4 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001477/