Do you suffer from numbness, tingling or weakness in a hand, arm, foot or leg? Do you get pain or cramping in your legs when you stand for long periods? Is the pain relieved when you bend forward or sit? You could be suffering from Spinal Stenosis.
Did you know that chiropractic treatment may help to reduce your symptoms?
If you have spinal stenosis, this blog will help you understand exactly what it is and what can be done to help you.
WHAT IS SPINAL STENOSIS
Spinal Stenosis is a condition when the space around the spinal cord, or spinal nerves, narrows. This reduces the size of the hole which the nerves pass through so can create pressure on the spinal cord, or spinal nerve roots.
What is your spinal canal?
Your spine is made up of a series of vertebrae and shock-absorbing discs which are stacked on top of one another. The hole in the centre of each disc and vertebrae creates a protective tube running down the centre of your spine. This is called the spinal canal.
Your spinal cord travels down this canal and connects your brain to the rest of your body.
Where does Spinal Stenosis Occur?
The two areas of the spine that spinal stenosis most commonly occurs is in the lower back and neck.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
This is the most common location for stenosis. It usually occurs in the bottom of the lumber spine; however, it can be found anywhere in this region. The reason for this is due to the low back being the most weightbearing location of the spine.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis
This is when the stenosis is in your neck. It is nearly always in the lower part of your neck and occurs either; following trauma (such as whiplash), or is due chronic poor postural habits or longstanding degenerative change.
Can Chiropractic Help Spinal Stenosis?
To understand how a chiropractor can help with your symptoms, you need to understand what a chiropractor does.
How does chiropractic work?
Chiropractic care aims to improve the movement, strength and balance to your spine.
This involves spinal adjustments (manipulation) which aim to restore the normal movement range to your spine. Specific exercises are also used to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles around your spine, improving the way this movement is controlled.
Improved spinal function can help reduce the irritation of your nerves at the level of the stenosis.
What are the symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?
Most people gradually develop symptoms as the size of the canal is reduced and the nerves become compressed. Neurological and muscular changes can develop as the condition worsens.
The common symptoms of spinal stenosis may include:
- Back and neck pain
- Radiating arm or leg pain such as sciatica – it can range from a dull ache or tenderness to a burning pain.
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms, legs or other areas of the body
- Cramping in your arms or legs
- Muscular weakness in the arm, leg, and/or other parts of the body
- Difficulty standing or walking
- Poor balance, coordination or clumsiness
- Difficulty in climbing stairs, walking, or while walking up hills?
What causes Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is usually caused by osteoarthritis (degeneration) in the spine. It is cause by the wear-and-tear effects of aging on the spine. It is seen in 95% of people by the age of 50.
Arthritic bone spurs narrow the spinal canal as shown above.
Other conditions that can cause spinal stenosis are:
- Degeneration of the spine
- Disc bulging or herniation
- Degenerative disc disease
- Narrow spinal canal
- Injuries to the spine
- Arthritis such as Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and Rheumatoid
- Spinal tumours
How is Spinal Stenosis diagnosed
To assist in your diagnosis, your first visit will extensively cover the following points:
- History – A careful review of your medical history, including your recent symptoms will be taken
- Physical examination – A thorough examination of your spinal function, nervous system, muscular system, gait and balance will be performed
- X-rays, MRI’s or Cat Scans – will be taken to examine both the bone and soft tissue structure in your spine
- All of this information is then combined to give you an accurate diagnosis
Who is more at risk of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis most often occurs in people over 50 years of age and is equally common in men and women. It is usually associated with arthritic change in your spine.
When Spinal Stenosis occurs in younger people, there are usually other causes involved such trauma, scoliosis, or genetic diseases that affect bone and muscle development throughout the body.
What are the types of Spinal Stenosis?
There are 2 types of spinal stenosis:
- Foraminal stenosis is where the nerve is irritated as it exits the spine – the symptoms of this are specific to where that nerve supplies
- Central stenosis is where the spinal cord itself has become compressed – this can lead to pain and/or dysfunction experienced anywhere in the body below the level of compression
It is also possible that you can have both types at the same time.
Can stenosis of the spine be cured?
There is no cure for spinal stenosis; however, there are a variety of treatments that chiropractors and other allied health professionals can use to keep your symptoms at bay.
How do you treat Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is always treated conservatively first, whenever possible.
Non-surgical treatment options
The aim of the following options is to restore spinal function and relieve pain.
A suitable chiropractic program may help improve your spinal function, while specific exercises and lifestyle modifications may give relief to many people with spinal stenosis.
Exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, masseurs and acupuncturists also have a role to play with a spinal stenosis treatment program.
Common medications that can be used include:
- Painkillers such as panadol and codine for pain relief
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, for reducing inflammation
- Medications for nerve pain
- Muscle relaxants to help control muscle spasms
- CBD oils are also believed to help symptoms
- Epidural injections with steroids are sometimes used to reduce the inflammation at the site of the nerve irritation
The goal of this surgery is to decompress the spinal cord and nerves to give pain relief.
The common surgical options for spinal stenosis include:
- Fusion where the vertebra is fused to the adjacent vertebrae
- Laminectomy, where part of the vertebral arch are removed
- Foraminotomy where a small part of the intervertebral foramen is removed
- Discectomy Where the damaged disc is removed
Surgery is usually only considered when non-operative treatments have failed, or your symptoms are worsening.
What can I do at home?
Things you can do at home to help you symptoms are:
- have regular chiropractic care to maintain your spinal function
- Lose weight and exercise regularly
- Practice good posture
- Use stationary biking instead of walking for exercise
- Sitting in a recliner instead of on a straight-back chair.
Simple home remedies like an ice bag, heating pad, massage, or a long and hot shower may also help.
How do you sleep with Spinal Stenosis?
People with spinal stenosis should sleep in the foetal position with a pillow between their knees. This can help reduce the pressure at the level of the stenosis.
When do I need urgent medical help?
Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have:
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Severe pain and weakness that spreads into one or both legs, making it hard to walk or get out of a chair
- Worsening or disabling spine pain, such as in the neck, mid back, low back
- Severe or increasing arm and/or leg weakness, pain, numbness, or tingling
- Difficulty with balance or walking
Chiropractic and Spinal Stenosis
Don’t let Spinal Stenosis ruin your life. Many people with spinal stenosis lead full and active lives.
Contact us today to learn if chiropractic care can help you.
We hope this blog was helpful. Please leave a comment below and tell us what you think.