Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal is compromised as its volume decreases due to several factors mostly attributed to aging. The onset of spinal stenosis is gradual and the deterioration of its symptoms worsens with movement.
The narrowing of the spinal canal is often caused by abnormalities in the aging spine. These abnormalities from the degeneration changes in the spine include thickened ligaments, bulging disc and bone spurs. Other factors that can cause stenosis are infection, abscess, congenital anomaly, vertebral dislocations or fractures or a spinal cord tumor.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Patients who suffer from spinal stenosis usually have a long history of pain and injuries to the spine. The symptoms typically begin in the legs and worsen with movements such as walking and exercising. Neurogenic claudication is the leg pain experienced while walking. Vascular claudication, on the other hand, is when there is poor blood supply to the legs, resulting in inability to support the leg tissues and muscles.
A comprehensive examination and medical history check is important in the diagnosis and differentiation of spinal stenosis. For example, in a case of a neurogenic claudication, bending the spine forward will stop the pain. This differs from vascular claudication wherein the symptoms will be relieved upon stopping movement.
Computed tomography (CT), CT myelography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used to look at the canal space and confirm the medical diagnosis. If denervation or loss of nerve supply is suspected, electromyography may be utilized. Spine degeneration and evidence of subluxation are noticeable on an X-ray check.
Treatment Options for Spinal Stenosis
The selection of the most appropriate treatment option for spinal stenosis will depend on the seriousness of the condition. There are basic approaches to spinal stenosis treatment: conservative medical approaches, conservative chiropractic approach and surgery. Conservative medical approach involves bed rest, medications and local heat. Medications include the use of analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), corticosteroid injections and anesthetic injections.
Most cases of spinal stenosis do not require surgery treatment, only the most serious ones. Surgery is recommended by medical doctors in spinal stenosis conditions where there is increase in the weakness in your arms and legs, when the pain is unbearable, when you cannot effectively walk and use your arms and when the stenosis has caused control problems with your bladder or bowel movement.
Chiropractic Care for Spinal Stenosis
More physicians are recommending chiropractic care as an alternative treatment before surgery. Chiropractors focus and work on correcting subluxations of the spine, which when present, do not allow for the optimum functioning of certain body organs. With these subluxations, the bones and surrounding tissue structures in the vertebrae put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
Chiropractic adjustments help bring the nervous system back to its proper state, getting the joints moving normally again and bringing the spine and bones back to their healthy state. These improvements will lead to a reduction in the spinal stenosis symptoms. Along with the adjustments, the chiropractor usually utilizes flexion-based exercise programs. The alleviation of the spinal stenosis will depend on several factors. If the spinal condition has been there for years, it may take time and several manipulation sessions for the body to heal. Other health issues aside from stenosis that the person may have may also lead to less than satisfactory outcomes. The severity of the narrowing of the spinal canal is obviously one of the primary considerations when gauging the results of chiropractic care.
In several studies of spinal stenosis cases where treatment involving spiral manipulations and flexion-distraction manipulations were used, it was concluded that chiropractic care is potentially beneficial in the treatment of patients. Still, other researches have so far shown that chiropractic treatment is about as effective as nonoperative conventional treatments for acute back pain, specifically lumbar spinal stenosis.
Stenosis is a chronic condition that cannot totally be “cured” but can be often improved, and the improvement can be sustained long-term. Patient and health care provider, such as a chiropractic doctor, can work hand in hand in alleviating the symptoms and in improving the quality of life of the patient.