Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spaces in the spinal cord, is one of the most common spinal conditions for patients over the age of 50. An estimated 25,000 to 50,000 Americans have symptoms of spinal stenosis. This represents one in 1,000 people over the age of 50 and five of every people over the age of 65. Furthermore lumbar (lower back) spinal stenosis is the single leading cause (approximately 75 percent of all cases) for back surgery among people over the age of 65.
Nowadays, Dr. Nathen Horst is seeing a larger number of patients with spinal stenosis who are looking for alternatives to back surgery, which cannot guarantee relief from back pain. Chiropractic adjustments are a great example of a simple, non-invasive alternative to back surgery for patients who have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis.
What Is Spinal Stenosis?
As mentioned previously, spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces in the spine become narrowed, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. There are three types of spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal column, which runs through the length of the spine and contains the spinal cord; narrowing of the spaces at the roots of the nerves branching out from the spine; or narrowing of the openings of the individual vertebra, through which the nerves pass to lead out to the rest of the body.
Depending upon the type of spinal stenosis, pain may be limited to just the back or can actually travel down to the legs. The latter is most common with lumbar spinal stenosis. Other symptoms may include weakness, tingling, or numbness in the legs.
Spinal stenosis has several root causes. The most common is aging, when the ligaments (tough connective tissue between the individual vertebrae) begin to thicken and deteriorate, causing vertebrae to rub against each other. Bone spurs (small bone growths) may also develop and impinge on nerves leading out from the spinal column. Finally, the facet joints, which form the opening for the spinal column, may break down.
Spinal stenosis may also be due to several degenerative conditions, including both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, hereditary conditions, traumatic injury, spinal tumors, and spondylolisthesis (when one vertebrae slips out of position).
Treatments for Spinal Stenosis
Standard surgery for spinal stenosis involves removing, trimming, or realigning the vertebrae that are impinging on the nerves. In some cases, the surgeon will perform what is known as a laminectomy, in which two or more of the affected vertebrae are fused together to provide a wider space for the spinal column. Success with this procedure greatly depends upon the type of procedure, the extent of the damage, and the age of the patient.
Alternatively, chiropractic adjustments can be used to treat spinal stenosis. When a spinal adjustment is performed, the spaces between and surrounding the individual vertebrae are opened up, thereby reducing pressure on both the spinal column and the nerves leading out from it. An article in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine looked at the combined results from six articles, with a total of 70 patients, to determine if chiropractic care is an effective treatment in cases of lumbar spinal stenosis. Overall, the researchers concluded that it does indeed offer a good alternative to other non-surgical treatments such as massage, traction, and neural mobilization.
Patients should not feel that surgery is their only choice to reduce or eliminate pain due to spinal stenosis. Chiropractic care can offer a non-invasive alternative, which may even give better results than surgery. Contact Horst Chiropractic today to schedule an appointment.