The structures of the spinal column are not completely solid. Normally there are a lot of spaces and cushions provided to absorb shocks against all that bone, and to allow for the network of nerves that moves up and down the spine. These spaces are critical for nerve impulses and blood flow to move unimpeded to all parts of the body. When these spaces narrow due to injury, genetics or any other reason, this narrowing of the spaces in the spinal column is referred to as spinal stenosis. A diagnosis of spinal stenosis is uncomfortable, to say the least, and demands relief. Whether or not relief is found depends on many factors.
A person can either be born with spinal stenosis or have it come upon them as the result of the degenerative processes of old age. Osteoarthritis is the main cause of spinal stenosis, although other factors can come into play as well. Herniated discs can be the reason. A toughening of the ligaments in the back over time can cause narrowing and inflexibility in the back. Swelling or a bone break from an accident or other trauma can set the stage for stenosis. Those who suffer from conditions that lead to dwarfism will have less space for the nerves in the backbone, and stenosis can occur. Any tumor or other abnormal growth in the spinal tissues will reduce the amount of available space in the spine and also begin stenosis symptoms.
What are the characteristic symptoms of spinal stenosis? Think back pain that starts slowly and grows greater as space narrows further. Compression on the nerves in the spine can cause growing pain or discomfort in the back and outer limbs. There may be weakness of the arms or legs, or numbing or cramping sensations. The pain is sometimes relived by stretching or flexing exercises, since these movements temporarily open up new space in the spinal area. More serious and worrisome symptoms might be a disruption of bowel or bladder area, or sexual dysfunction. Symptoms such as these constitute a true medical emergency, and a doctor should be sought right away.
When faced with a diagnosis of spinal stenosis, practitioners of conventional medicine have many possible options to choose from. Medication, physical therapy, rest, a back brace, or epidural injections are some of the possibilities, and they do help sometimes. Sometimes they don’t, or they come along with unacceptable side effects. Some treatments have to be limited, to avoid the possible side effects. If the pain continues past the safe limit of medication, surgery may be considered, but it also holds no guarantees of success.
The medical establishment has always been slow to recognize and acknowledge the value of chiropractic care. Yet, even modern medicine will grudgingly agree that, in the treatment of spinal stenosis, chiropractic has its place. Chiropractic manipulation restores the natural flow of blood and nervous system impulses within the spine. Traction or spinal decompression therapy can be very effective for opening up new space within the spine and relieving pressure on nerves and blood vessels. All treatments used by chiropractors are natural and non-invasive, and are based around the view that the body seeks a point of homeostasis or balance. Chiropractors seek this balance of all body systems in their treatment of patients.