Today spinal stenosis is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in patients over fifty. This pain can also cause burning and or numbness in the buttocks or legs and eventually leads to leg weakness. Needless to say this can be a debilitating injury that a great number of middle age people suffer from everyday. In our practice we have found a complex protocol that significantly helps these patients this includes adjustments, traction, and soft tissue therapy.
To understand this condition and what is causing the pain is easy when visualizing the spine in the following way. Picture twenty-three doughnuts, stacked on top of one another. The hole in the center of the donut is the spinal cord resides, running all the way from the brain at the top to the lower back. Now divide each donut in half: the front half will be the vertebral body with an disc in-between each donut, the posterior portion will contain a small hole were the nerve roots exit the spinal cord and relay information to the body.
As we age certain processes will lead to a decrease in this space causing the pain known as spinal stenosis. Ligaments that hold the vertebra together are known to get larger invading the nerve space. Ostioarthritis is a common joint decease, which as we age, will produce a growth of bony spurs that invade the space of the nerve roots. Or the discs in between the donuts may degenerate and push back on to the spinal cord causing the symptoms.
There are some simple things that patients that are suffering from spinal stenosis can do to decrease their pain. The easiest is bending forward. Leaning forward whether it is on a shopping cart or while riding a bike will open up the posterior aspect of the spine giving the nerves more space causing less irritation. Laying face down over an exercise ball can accomplish the same thing. However, these simple fixes will not work with all stenosis patients, as mentioned before degeneration of the disc in-between the vertebra may also cause the stenosis symptoms. In these cases leaning forward will put more pressure on the disc aggravating the symptoms.
Chiropractic adjustments that focus on spinal correction tend to relieve stenosis pain. Aligning an individual into their ideal posture allows for the most anatomical room on both sides of the spine for the spinal nerve to exit. Think back to the donuts mentioned before, if you tilt one from side to side it will narrow the hole in which the spinal nerve exits. This is the same concept as a patient with poor posture leaning slightly to one side or having one hip slightly higher than the other. Through the correction of the patients posture, we are able to correct this problem helping to alleviate their pain in the process.
We have also implemented specialized forms of traction in our office that decompress the nerves and help to restore normal function. These traction sessions allow an increase in blood flow to the effected areas that seem to help in the overall healing of the area.
We also utilize many different forms of soft tissue therapy in the treatment of spinal stenosis. Ultrasound is a sound wave that can reverse the nerve irritation and decrease the underlying pain in patients with spinal stenosis. Muscle Stimulation is also utilized to relax muscle spasms and increase local blood circulation. Active Release Technique is used break up muscle adhesions restoring proper function to the effected area.
A study on specialized chiropractic treatments very similar to those we use found that only 9% of one thousand patients treated needed surgery. In fact most patients reached improvement within a six-week period of twelve treatments. Many people think that the debilitating symptoms caused by spinal stenosis can only be helped through surgery, this however is far from the truth there are many things that Chiropractors can do to relieve the pain and help you avoid surgery all together.