Spinal Stenosis; did you know that chiropractors can help?
A number of months ago, a patient called our office regarding his diagnosis of spinal stenosis. He was in his early 60’s and was told the problem was genetic after experiencing difficulties with standing for long periods of time, having lower back pain and having difficulty touching his toes. After numerous MRI’s and physical rehabilitation that was ineffective other than his daily exercises, his symptoms continued to worsen.
For those who are unfamiliar with spinal stenosis, it is described as follows:
“Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal that may occur in any of the regions of the spine. This narrowing causes a restriction to the spinal canal, resulting in a neurological deficit. Symptoms include pain, numbness, paraesthesia, and loss of motor control. The location of the stenosis determines which area of the body is affected. With spinal stenosis, the spinal canal is narrowed at the vertebral canal, which is a foramen between the vertebrae where the spinal cord (in the cervical or thoracic spine) or nerve roots (in the lumbar spine) pass through. There are several types of spinal stenosis, with lumbar stenosis and cervical stenosis being the most frequent. While lumbar spinal stenosis is more common, cervical spinal stenosis is more dangerous because it involves compression of the spinal cord whereas the lumbar spinal stenosis involves compression of the cauda equine.” You can read more here
Basically, the spinal nerves are compromised as the spinal canal becomes smaller due to either degenerative changes, a genetically smaller than normal canal or in the worst cases, a herniated disc that presses against the nerves in the neck or the back.
In the neck, it can affect the way you walk and may require surgery, however in the lower back, chiropractors can be quite effective giving relief to thousands of suffers with proper management which includes spinal manipulation, exercises, myofascial release and foot orthotics if needed.
In the case of the gentleman above, he has seen a marked improvement of function and is able to touch his toes, stand for much longer periods of time and is able to sit for much greater periods of time with much less pain than before.
The typical stenosis cases we have seen typically have other functional mechanical problems with the way they walk and their body style (perhaps, the reason for the degeneration that occurs in the canal). As a result, merely looking at the stenosis without looking at the patient thoroughly is likely to result in as less than satisfactory outcome, which we also evaluate everything from the way you stand, walk, and move, your body style and will even evaluate your upper body function as well.
Many patients and doctors often focus on the pain, however the malfunction causing the pain may not be in the back or legs at all, which is why it is important to be thorough and think outside of the box. While studies have been done which do show promising benefit from spinal manipulation most commonly done by chiropractors alone (1), a comprehensive approach improves the likelihood of a satisfactory outcome. A less conservative approach should be considered last as is more risky and may actually create other problems as a result of the procedure. Surgical solutions are quite risky, and should rarely be considered. There is evidence to suggest that who you see first will determine the effectiveness and cost of care and your overall experience. Spinal stenosis is often diagnosed by MRI, and you should consider a chiropractic consultation first, before consulting with a surgeon such as a neurosurgeon or orthopedic for the best and most cost effective outcome.
In its most severe cases, stenosis can be quite disabling, however, with earlier intervention, patients are able to walk better with less pain and have a better overall level of fitness and a better quality of life. Studies show that a better level of fitness as you get older is important to your overall health, reducing the likelihood of diabetes (2), improving cardiovascular function and older patients will appreciate the safety and effectiveness of chiropractic methods.
2. Evaluation of a supervised physical exercise program in sedentary patients over 65 years with type 2 diabetes mellitus.Parra-Sánchez J1, Moreno-Jiménez M2, Nicola CM2, Nocua-Rodríguez II3, Amegló-Parejo MR3, Del Carmen-Peña M4, Cordero-Prieto C2, Gajardo-Barrena MJ2.