Spinal Stenosis or narrowing of the spinal cord canal is a condition that affects many adults after the age of 50. This occurs when the spinal canal, containing the nerve roots and spinal cord becomes constricted or compressed usually by bone spurs or disc bulges. This can lead to compression of the spinal cord or spinal nerves resulting in cramping, pain or numbness in the back, legs, and or feet.
People suffering from Spinal Stenosis may have trouble walking any significant distance, and usually must sit or lean forward over a grocery cart, countertop or assistive device such as a walker in order to relieve the pain. The pain, numbness and tingling is usually equally down both legs. A general rule of thumb is that if the pain is down one leg and hurts worse with sitting or leaning forward it is typically related to a disc herniation or bulge. If a person has pain down both legs and is worse when walking or standing then Spinal Stenosis should be suspected.
What causes Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is usually caused by progressive degenerative changes in the spine. This can occur from the narrowing of space around the spinal cord due to bony overgrowth (bone spurs) from arthritis, combined with thickening or calcification of one or more ligaments in the back. Stenosis can also be caused by a bulge or herniation of the intervertebral discs. This must be differentiated from the stenosis caused by the bony overgrowth that can occur on the vertebral bodies, or facet joints. Spinal decompression therapy may not be appropriate in moderate to severe cases of spinal stenosis with many spurs and thickened ligaments. On the other hand, if the stenosis of the central canal is primarily from bulging discs, or herniated discs, then non-surgical spinal decompression may be very successful. A consultation and review of your MRI should determine whether surgery or Spinal Decompression is going to be your best alternative.
Who is at risk of developing Spinal Stenosis?
The risk of developing Spinal Stenosis increases in those who:
Are born with a narrow spinal canal
Are 50 years of age or older
Have had previous injury or surgery of the spine
Conditions that can cause Spinal Stenosis include:
Arthritis and bone spurs (osteophytes) associated with aging
Spinal tumors (rare)
How do we treat Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a challenging condition as it often affects may pain generators in the lower back. Based on this, we use a comprehensive treatment protocol that may include any of the following:
- Spinal Traction/Decompression (if not contra-indicated)
- Therapeutic Modalities: Interferential Current, Therapeutic US
- Cold Laser Therapy
- Flexion/Distraction Therapy
- Specific Therapeutic Exercises
- Massage Therapy Techniques