What Is Spinal Stenosis and How Do I Treat it?
Here at the Oakville Chiropractic Centre, we treat all kinds of ailments. One that is a bit more rare but we would like to educate our patients and readers about is Spinal Stenosis. What is it and can my Oakville Chiropractor treat it?
Millions of adults suffer from neck and back pain. Some also suffer from pain, numbness, or tingling radiating down the arms or legs. While many factors cause back and neck pain, including soft tissue injuries such as whiplash, many of the symptoms people experience result from spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis describes the narrowing of the openings in the spine through which nerves travel to other parts of the body. When the openings narrow too much, the pressure applied to the nerves can cause pain, tingling, or dysfunction in the extremities. Relieving the stress on the nerves can reduce or eliminate the symptoms caused by spinal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis can occur in any part of the spine. If the stenosis occurs in the cervical spine, or neck, the pain may occur anywhere from the neck to the fingers. Cervical stenosis can cause symptoms similar to carpal tunnel syndrome. Doctors occasionally have difficulties determining whether a patient’s symptoms result from carpal tunnel or cervical stenosis.
Stenosis in the lumbar spine, or lower back, can cause radiating symptoms in the buttocks, hips, legs, and feet. Severe cases of lumbar stenosis may result in the legs giving way, causing the patient to fall. Patients may also alter their gait as a precaution, which can cause injuries to the knees and hips.
Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal Stenosis can be incredibly uncomfortable to the person who is suffering. Common symptoms of spinal stenosis include the following:
- Neck pain. Pain in your neck can signal cervical stenosis. Your doctor’s exam will help determine whether the pain results from cervical stenosis or soft tissue injuries.
- Back pain. Pain in the lower back, at the midline or on either side, could result from lumbar stenosis.
- Numbness, pain, or tingling in an extremity. Feeling these sensations in an extremity could indicate spinal stenosis. The sensations result from the compression of the nerve as it exits the spine. You should set up an exam with your Oakville Chiropractor if you experience these sensations by calling 905-845-2291.
- A weak feeling in an extremity. Weakness, or giving way in any extremity can also indicate damage to the nerve from spinal stenosis. If you drop objects for no reason, or if your legs give way without warning, you should see your medical provider at once.
- Inability to control the bowel or bladder. An inability to control your bowel or bladder could indicate a neurological problem. You should have this evaluated at once to determine the cause of the problem.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
There are several factors may cause spinal stenosis. The more common causes include:
- Osteoarthritis. As you age, the discs in your vertebrae dehydrate, the cartilage thickens, and bone spurs may develop. The effect of the combination of these factors is a narrowing of the openings through which nerves travel, which can cause spinal stenosis. Osteoarthritis is most common in people over 50.
- Congenitally Narrow Spine. People born with a narrow spinal cord may experience premature stenosis.
- Trauma. Trauma to the spine, such as car accidents, falls from height, or lifting injuries, can cause nerve compression. Many on the job accidents result in spinal stenosis.
- Bulging or herniated discs. Bulging spinal or herniated discs result in disc material forcing its way into the openings intended for the nerves. This compresses the nerves, resulting in dysfunction, pain, and tingling.
Diagnosing Spinal Stenosis
When diagnosing spinal stenosis, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam. The exam may include tests that produce symptoms associated with spinal stenosis to assist your provider in ruling out a soft tissue injury as the cause of your pain.
When you visit your Chiropractor in Oakville, give as much details about your history as possible. For example, when the symptoms started, how often they occur, and what you were doing when you first noticed the symptoms. These could help your chiropractor determine the proper diagnosis. Strong medical histories result in more accurate diagnoses.
Your provider may also perform diagnostic testing to pinpoint the causes of your symptoms. Those tests include:
- X-rays. X-rays allow your provider to visualize the curvature of your spine. The films may also reveal other problems, such as bone spurs.
- MRI. MRIs reveal the state of your intervertebral discs and nerves. X-rays only show the bony structures. Softer structures, such as the discs, require an MRI to allow your provider to determine whether they may be causing your symptoms.
- CT. A CT scan may be ordered if, for any reason, you cannot undergo an MRI.
EMG. An EMG, or nerve conduction study, allows your doctor to determine whether any issues in the extremities result from stenosis or problems in the extremity itself. For example, an EMG may help determine whether your numb fingers result from carpal tunnel syndrome or cervical stenosis.
How is Spinal Stenosis Treated?
Your healthcare provider should order conservative treatment before any advanced or invasive treatment options. Chiropractic adjustments, combined with stretching and a home exercise program, may resolve the issue quickly. Conservative treatments include:
- Chiropractic adjustment. If your symptoms result from a misalignment of the spine, adjustments may bring the spine back into alignment. Quite often, this will resolve the problem. Your Oakville Chiropractor can discuss specific adjustments with you.
- Spinal Decompression Therapy. Many people are treated using a non-surgical treatment spinal decompression therapy. This is a machine that you will lay on and it will gently stretch the spine and remove pressure off the discs forcing the position of the spine to correct itself.
- Stretching/Home Exercise Program. Many back and neck issues result from inactivity or overly tight muscles. Stretching and a gentle home exercise program may help eliminate your symptoms. Continuing the program after your symptoms resolve will help keep the problem from recurring.
- Massage. Deep tissue massage may help loosen the muscles in your neck and back and relieve pain.
- Physical Therapy. Physical therapy may also help eliminate your symptoms without invasive treatment.
Your family physician may also prescribe muscle relaxers or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). The most well known NSAID is ibuprofen. Ibuprofen and similar over-the-counter medications can assist with the pain caused by spinal stenosis, reducing the need for more dangerous drugs, such as opiates.
In more severe cases, spinal stenosis may require invasive treatment. Common invasive treatments include the following:
- Epidural Steroid Injections. ESIs inject corticosteroids into the space where the nerves leave the spinal cord. This may help reduce any inflammation causing compression of a nerve.
- Discectomy. If a disc impinges on the nerve, your provider may perform a partial or complete discectomy to remove the disc.
- Spinal Fusion. In severe cases, a doctor may fuse the vertebrae into place to relieve the pain and other symptoms. This surgery carries several risks and side effects.
- Surgery. Surgery should always be a last resort. Conservative treatment relieves most cases of back and neck pain.
Managing Your Spinal Stenosis
You should engage in healthy habits to manage your spinal stenosis to keep it from recurring. Some helpful habits include:
- Keep a healthy weight. Keeping your BMI in the normal range keeps stress off your spine and joints, allowing them to remain healthy longer.
- Exercise. 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week will help prevent spinal stenosis. Walking, swimming, and moderate weight lifting all help prevent stenosis.
- Use ice and heat. If you overdo it, use ice on the painful area for the first 48 hours. After that, if symptoms persist, switch to a heating pad.
- Massage. Regular massages help keep your body loose, reducing the stress on your spine and joints. Deep tissue massages once a month will help prevent the recurrence of spinal stenosis.
- Regular Adjustments. Regular adjustments with your chiropractor Oakville will also help prevent stenosis. Chiropractic treatment keeps your spine aligned and healthy, allowing you to enjoy pain-free activity. You should continue chiropractic treatment after symptoms resolve to ensure that you do not suffer a relapse.
We hope that this article has helped inform you about Spinal Stenosis. If you feel this is something you may be coping with, give us a call at 905-845-2291 or fill out a form on our website at https://www.oakvillechiropractic.com/contact-us/.