About 50 to 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. It’s one of the most common health problems in the world. In fact, back pain is the highest cause of disability globally.
You might not realise that your problem is more than “low back pain,” though. Spinal stenosis often affects the lower back and neck, which can cause people to mistake their condition for general pain.
What is spinal stenosis exactly, and what spinal stenosis treatment options are available?
Keep reading to find out! In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about this condition.
Don’t let your back pain impact your quality of life. Instead, make a positive change for your health by reading this guide today!
What is Spinal Stenosis?
First, let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind: what is spinal stenosis?
Your vertebrae give the upper body stability and support while allowing us to turn our bodies as needed. Openings in the vertebrae allow spinal nerves to send signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Tissue and bone protect these spinal nerves from potential damage.
If these surrounding tissue or bone become impaired, it can impact your ability to feel, walk, or maintain balance.
You can develop lumbar spinal stenosis if your spinal column begins to narrow. Over time, this process could compress the spinal cord.
In some cases, the narrowing is only minimal. You might not experience symptoms at all. Too much narrowing, however, will cause problems.
Spinal stenosis can impact any part of your spine, though low back pain is common.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
Since spinal stenosis can impact any part of your spine, there’s more than one form of this condition. Each type of stenosis is dependent on where the condition occurs. You could develop more than one form of stenosis, including:
- Lumbar stenosis
- Cervical stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis occurs when the narrowing affects your lower back. It’s the most common type of spinal stenosis. Cervical stenosis, on the other hand, occurs if the narrowing affects your neck.
Remember, some people don’t experience symptoms. Your doctor might use an MRI or CT scan to determine you have spinal stenosis.
If symptoms do occur, they usually start gradually before getting worse over time. Your symptoms might also vary depending on the location of the condition.
For example, lumbar spinal stenosis can cause lower back pain. About 540 million people around the world are suffering from low back pain at any point in time. Other symptoms can include:
- Weakness in your foot or leg
- Pain in one or both legs after you stand for a long period of time
- Pain while walking that eases when you bend or sit
- Numbness or tingling in your foot or leg
If you’ve developed cervical spinal stenosis, your symptoms can include:
- Neck pain
- Weakness in an arm, foot, leg, or hand
- Difficulty walking
- Balance issues
In severe cases, you might also develop bowel or bladder dysfunction.
Make an appointment with your chiropractor or doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Your chiropractor can help you determine the root cause of your stenosis. Then, you can discuss your spinal stenosis treatment options based on your condition.
Bone overgrowth might cause you to develop stenosis. This occurs when osteoarthritis on your spinal bones causes wear and tear damage over time. Eventually, bone spurs may form.
These spurs can grow into the spinal canal and cause stenosis.
Developing a bone disease called Paget’s disease might cause bone overgrowth to occur as well.
Your doctor might complete an MRI or CT and discover an abnormal growth has formed inside your spinal cord. It’s uncommon, though possible, for tumours to grow between your spinal cord and vertebrae.
As you age, the soft cushions between your vertebrae that absorb shock can begin to dry out. This process could cause cracks in the disk’s exterior. If you have a herniated disc, it could cause the soft material to press on the spinal cord or nerves.
Other common causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Spinal injuries from car crashes, trauma, or sports injuries
- Thickened ligaments that bulge into the spinal canal
- Spinal defects that present at birth
- Spinal curvature (scoliosis)
- Achondroplasia (a type of dwarfism)
There are risk factors that could cause you to develop spinal stenosis as well. Potential risk factors can include old age, degenerative changes, or genetic diseases.
When left untreated, your spinal stenosis can progress and cause permanent issues, including:
- Balance issues
Let your chiropractor or doctor know if you’re experiencing spinal stenosis symptoms right away. They can use spine imaging with a CT or MRI to confirm the diagnosis.
There’s currently not a cure available for spinal stenosis. However, you can use treatments to ease your symptoms.
First, your chiropractor or doctor might suggest anti-inflammatory medications. Over-the-counter medications can ease your swelling and pain. If over-the-counter options don’t work, your doctor might prescribe a higher-dose medication.
Cortisone injections are another option.
Cortisone is an anti-inflammatory drug. Your doctor can inject the cortisone directly into the affected area to ease your pain. However, you shouldn’t have over three injections per year.
You can also use spinal stenosis exercises to improve your health.
Though some people feel like they’re in too much pain to exercise, movement can actually help ease your pain. If you haven’t exercised recently, start slowly before increasing the intensity.
For example, you can exercise in a pool to improve your range of motion. You can work with a chiropractor or physical therapist to develop an exercise plan.
Chiropractic manipulation is an option for spinal stenosis treatment, too. You can also combine chiropractic treatment with massage therapy. Regular treatments can loosen your back muscles and help you relax.
If your pain is severe, you might consider a surgical option as well.
Straightening Out the Situation: Understanding Spinal Stenosis
Don’t live life in pain. Instead, talk to your chiropractor about spinal stenosis. They can help you develop a spinal stenosis treatment plan with your needs in mind.
With regular appointments, you can keep your pain at bay and improve your quality of life!
Not sure if you need to visit a chiropractor? Explore this guide to determine if it’s time to schedule an appointment.