What is Spinal Stenosis?
As a chiropractor with a focus on Structural Correction, I am seeing more and more people come in to my office with a diagnosis of spinal stenosis. Though more people seem to be walking around with the diagnosis, very few people seem to actually know what the condition is and how it can impact someone’s life. For all intents and purposes, people just know that something bad has happened to their spine.
Spinal stenosis is actually a very vague descriptor. Literally speaking, it means the holes in your spine have gotten smaller. I bet that sounds a lot less intimidating doesn’t it? No one is scared of small a disease called small holes in the spine. The most important thing issue is what is CAUSING the spinal narrowing. Here are the primary types of spinal stenosis:
1. Large Disc Herniations
2. Bone spurs/Ligament growth
3. Fractures and dislocations
As you can see, some causes of stenosis are a lot more serious than others. Fractures, dislocations, and tumors are certainly nothing to joke about, and require immediate medical attention. Most cases however, are of the herniation and bone spur variety which can respond very well to conservative methods.
Stenosis can also occur in different parts of the spine. Depending on what region the stenosis occurs will dictate symptoms. Stenosis in the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back can create back pain, sciatica, numbness, and weakness. Lumbar stenosis will usually be painless at rest, but the thought of moving can be painful for many people. Severe cases that need medical attention are seen when bowel or bladder symptoms are seen because it may indicate cauda equina syndrome.
If stenosis happens in the neck, it is a much more sensitive and severe situation. Stenosis of the neck can put direct pressure on the spinal cord and create symptoms in both arms, both legs, shooting electrical pain, and disrupt the ability to do fine hand movements.
In serious cases, surgery may be necessary to prevent a more dangerous progression. However, most people will attempt to just suffer through the pain. The good news is that many of these cases can and do respond very well to conservative means. Although many people think that chiropractic can be dangerous for spinal stenosis, I’ve taken care of several people who didn’t qualify for surgery, but their surgeon recommended my office for gentle Structural Chiropractic care.
While most people associate chiropractic with getting your back or neck cracked when you’re in pain, there are actually many approaches to taking care of the spine that do not require any popping or cracking. One such example is the NUCCA Protocol ( http://www.nucca.org )
The most important thing is that a problem that preceded the stenosis is identified, and corrected. We call this type of problem a Structural Shift. When there’s a long standing Structural Shift in the head and neck called Atlas Displacement Complex, spinal stenosis can be the end result after years of wear and tear. By getting these Structural problems corrected, you can stop the progression of disc related stenosis and possibly prevent it from beginning in the first place.