Good Health Thru Chiropractic

Our Treatments Improve Your Spinal Stenosis Symptoms Within the First Month!

The most common reason that people visit a chiropractic physician is back pain—but not all back pain is the same. There are many different potential causes of back pain, stemming from a wide variety of underlying conditions. One of the causes of back pain which Dr. Galante treats at Algonquin Chiropractic Center is spinal stenosis.

So, what is spinal stenosis, what are its symptoms, and how do we treat it?

What Causes Spinal Stenosis?

Side by side of healthy and unhealthy neckYour spinal column extends from your neck down to your lower back. The bones in the spine, called vertebrae, form what’s called a spinal canal. This canal protects the spinal cord and the nerves that run to your head, your trunk, and down your arms and legs.

Spinal stenosis occurs when there’s a narrowing of the spaces within your spine. This can exert pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves, leading to a variety of symptoms including back and leg pain, numbness, and cramping.

A few specific causes of spinal stenosis include:

  • Bone Spurs—Osteoarthritis can cause wear and tear to the vertebrae. This prompts overgrowth of bone into the spinal canal in response.
  • Thickened Ligaments—Ligaments are the soft tissues holding the vertebrae together. Over time, they can thicken, stiffen, and bulge into your spinal canal.
  • Herniated Disc—Spinal discs are the shock-absorbing cushions between your vertebrae. As you age, these tend to wear out and dry out. When a disc’s tough exterior cracks, the soft material inside can come out and put pressure on the nerves and/or spinal cord.
  • Spinal Injury—One or more of your vertebrae can be dislocated during a traumatic injury like in a car accident. This displacement can damage your spinal canal, and back surgery can inflame the tissues surrounding it and place additional pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.
  • Tumors - Abnormal growths can form inside the spinal cord, within the membranes that cover the spinal cord, or in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae. These are uncommon and identifiable on spine imaging with an MRI or CT.

In our clinic, we most commonly see spinal stenosis in the necks and lower backs of older patients with moderate to advanced osteoarthritis.

What Symptoms Does Spinal Stenosis Cause?

Spinal stenosis is a progressive illness—its symptoms start small or even nonexistent, and then get worse and worse until they become unbearable and you have to do something.

Older man holding his back with pain caused by spinal stenosisThose symptoms differ depending on where the stenosis occurs and what nerves it affects. Here’s how the symptoms often progress:

  • Cervical Spine (in the neck)
    • Tingling or numbness in a hand, foot, arm, or leg.
    • Weakness in a hand, foot, arm, or leg.
    • Balance issues and difficulty walking.
    • Neck pain.
    • Dysfunctional bladder or bowels (in severe cases)
  • Lumbar Spine (in the low back)
    • Tingling or numbness in a foot or leg.
    • Weakness in the foot or leg.
    • Cramping or pain in one or both legs which gets worse when you stand or walk and better when you sit or bend over.
    • Back pain.

The next time you’re in a supermarket, look for older people leaning over their shopping carts. They likely have spinal stenosis and are leaning to relieve leg or back pain!

This is a typical stenosis patient that comes into our clinic. A patient with a history of low back pain, usually over the age of 50, will develop tingling, cramping, and then pain in one or both of their legs. They can only walk or stand for anywhere from half an hour to just a few seconds. That’s when the numbness, cramping, and pain get worse, and they sit or bend over a shopping cart to relieve it.

This pain results in them transitioning to a less active lifestyle where they spend a lot more time sitting. With a more sedentary lifestyle, weight gain can occur with all the accompanying risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Stenosis patients can also become deconditioned. Deconditioning means that since your muscles and bones no longer receive the physical activity that makes them become strong and grow, they become weaker and may develop osteoporosis. It also means your balance becomes worse, making you a fall risk.

Weaker bones and worse balance make your more susceptible to head injuries as well as fractures in the spine and hips. When you first detect spinal stenosis, you may not even be experiencing any symptoms yet, but these are the symptoms that you could be heading towards.

Why wait to address the problem until it gets that far?

How Is Spinal Stenosis Treated?

There are five main options for treatment for spinal stenosis: medication, physical therapy, steroid injections, surgery, and chiropractic care.

Medication

The medication prescribed for back and leg pain associated with sciatica consists mostly of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and pain killers, including opioids.

However, in May of 2017 the FDA released a recommendation that physicians should look for non-pharmacological (drug-free) options for pain treatment. In Section II of their “Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain,” they listed chiropractic as one of those options.

The American College of Physicians then also recommended non-pharmacological approaches as the first line of treatment. These recommendations are all designed to keep people away from opioid painkillers and the devastating addiction that can come with their use.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is an important form of treatment that certainly has its place, but it’s not as effective as chiropractic care when treating leg pain.

A 2006 study in the European Spine Journal found that patients with leg pain did “significantly better” with chiropractic techniques compared to physical therapy, and had “significantly lower pain scores” after a year of treatment. This shows that if you have leg pain, you may want to consider chiropractic before physical therapy.

Steroid Injections

A study in the December 2004 issue of the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that 50-75% of patients with radicular pain (leg pain) had temporary relief after cortisone injections. However, only 25-57% experienced long-term relief.

In March of 2004 the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation had also reported that lumbar injections only provided 32% of patients with sustained relief. Steroid injections can have some success, but shouldn’t be your first option.

Back surgery for spinal stenosis being performed by surgeons.

Surgery

You probably already would rather avoid surgery. However, let’s look at the success rates of spinal surgery. According to a 2012 study in the Spine Journal:

  • 5% of spine surgery patients had complications during surgery.
  • 5% had complications after surgery.
  • 39% had an extended stay in the hospital due to complications.
  • 1% died.

On top of that, the British Medical Journal reported in 2008 that patients who received surgical treatment and those who received conservative treatment had similar outcomes after two years. Why go through surgery and all those risks if you won’t even be any better off than you would have been without it?

Chiropractic Care

At Algonquin Chiropractic Center, Dr. Galante develops individualized proprietary treatment plans for spinal stenosis and leg pain. He utilizes a combination of treatments including massage therapy, spinal bracing, orthotics, vibration therapy, laser therapy, rehabilitation, and the Cox Technic.

Using the Cox Technic in this individualized treatment plan, our patients typically experience a 25-50% improvement to symptoms in the first 2-4 weeks of care, and studies show a 91% success rate. This chiropractic approach helps you avoid addictive medications, reduces your chances of needing risky surgeries, and improves your overall quality of life.

Dr. Galante's approach will reduce pain and restore function, meaning you can get back to physical activities you haven’t been able to do, whether it’s a game of golf or just being able to stand up and walk around without difficulty. Don’t wait for the symptoms to keep getting worse—give us a call and schedule a consultation today!