Spinal stenosis is a potentially serious condition in which an area of the spinal column narrows and in the process puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. Spinal stenosis usually affects the neck area or lower back (lumbar) area. As the nerves in the back connect to the rest of the body, a person suffering from spinal stenosis may experience pain, numbness, or decreased motor control in the back, neck, arms or legs. However, the affected areas of the body are related to the location of spinal narrowing – a person with spinal stenosis issues in the neck will feel the effects in the upper body, while a person suffering from spinal stenosis in the lumbar region will experience symptoms in the lower half of their body.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
The causes of spinal stenosis include spinal tumors, which may compress the spinal column as they grow, spinal injuries such as a fractured vertebrae, which may cause pressure to the spinal column as the result of swelling, and Paget’s Disease, which can cause bones to grow too large, thus impinging on the proper amount of space that should be found in the spinal column.
However, the majority of cases of spinal stenosis are caused by the degenerative effects of aging on the spinal column. As a person ages, the cushioning material between vertebrae begins to break down which can lead to spinal compression as the space between vertebrae decreases. Osteoarthritis and the thickening of ligaments that comes with advancing age may also result in spinal stenosis as well. In these aging-related cases, chiropractic adjustment is a viable alternative to more invasive forms of spinal correction and pain relief.
Treating Spinal Stenosis: The Chiropractic Approach
A chiropractor will begin by conducting a physical examination, and if spinal stenosis is deemed to be a likely culprit in a patient’s discomfort, an MRI will probably be the next step. If MRI results further reinforce a diagnosis of spinal stenosis, a chiropractor will make use of Spinal Decompression Therapy. This technique uses decompression to open up the spaces where spinal nerves exit, allowing for a pumping action to occur which propels blood into the space between vertebrae, flowing around the area of spinal narrowing and helping to heal the damaged nerves. As spinal stenosis is characterized by compression and narrowing, a chiropractic approach calls for decompression and expansion. Decompression treatments usually last for between 12 and 15 minutes, and patients often feel relief within the first few visits.