One of the most common age-related back problems is called spinal stenosis. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that 8 to 11 percent of Americans will be affected by this condition, most over the age of 50. While there is no cure for spinal stenosis, there are some things that you can do to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the disorder.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is characterized by the narrowing or compression of the spinal cord, either in the neck (cervical spine) or the lower back (lumbar spine). When this happens, the nerve roots are irritated, causing pain. Most people suffer from spinal stenosis in their lower back.
Common Causes and Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis
The narrowing of the spinal column associated with spinal stenosis could be caused by abnormalities in the aging spine or mechanical problems. While stenosis is considered a degenerative condition, the symptoms and pain associated with the condition may be absent until there is an accident or other traumatic event that triggers symptoms.
When the spaces in the spine begin to narrow, there may be a slow or sudden onset of symptoms. Most often, people with spinal stenosis suffer from weakness, numbness, cramping, and pain in their arms and legs. If the narrowed space is near a nerve root, there may be shooting pain down the leg (sciatica). Severe symptoms of the condition include foot disorders and problems with bowel and bladder function.
Spinal stenosis is generally a condition that develops as we grow older, often occurring after the age of 50. There are some cases, however, where spinal curvature (scoliosis) or other congenital factors could lead to spinal stenosis in a younger person. No matter what the cause of spinal stenosis, there are treatments available that can help alleviate the resulting pain and discomfort.
Treatments to Alleviate the Discomfort Associated with Spinal Stenosis
If you have spinal stenosis, there are ways to treat the condition without having a risky back surgery. While surgery may be the best option in some severe cases, many patients find relief from their symptoms with other less invasive treatments.
When you visit your primary care physician or orthopedic doctor, they will probably recommend a course of medication combined with physical therapy. Some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs may relieve pain and inflammation, but they could also have severe side effects from long-term use. In some cases, a course of spinal epidural injections over several weeks provides relief. Also, active (exercise) and passive (heat and ice) physical therapy are effective for symptom relief.
One of the most effective non-invasive treatments for spinal stenosis is chiropractic care. A chiropractor will use gentle hand movements for spinal manipulation to subtly change the position of the patient’s vertebrae. This takes the unwanted pressure off of the spine and relieves the symptoms associated with spinal stenosis. Chiropractors may also combine these techniques with such things as stretching and exercise, massage therapy, and lifestyle advice. The advantage of chiropractic treatment for spinal stenosis is that it is noninvasive, doesn’t involve addictive pain medication or a recovery period, and it’s all natural.
Spinal stenosis can be a painful burden, but it’s not one that you have to suffer from without treatment. The noninvasive options for spinal stenosis care, particularly through chiropractic treatment, gives patients the ability to live a life that is unburdened by the pain and discomfort of this incurable condition.