A Primer On Spinal Stenosis


There is a need to educate our youth, and society in general, on proper spinal hygiene.

I would like to address the subject of spinal stenosis, acknowledging that this indeed is a condition that affects patients most of the time that are already 50 years of age. The most important issue to discuss with all patients, but especially those not yet affected by this condition, is to educate them about spinal hygiene. We have been conditioned here in the United States to recognize the importance of dental hygiene, good nutritional discipline, and perhaps the benefits of exercise and fitness training. But few people, including some health care professionals,
are aware of the necessity for maintaining good spinal hygiene, or even what it is!

Thus, there is a need to educate our youth and society in general as to what is proper spinal hygiene. Having spent over 38 years as a practicing chiropractor, it is my considered opinion that spinal stenosis essentially, has a great
deal to do with not maintaining spinal health over one’s lifetime. Often, this is not really the fault of the patient, but more so of our lack of awareness about the condition, and lack of effort to help educate patients and professionals about more effective ways to deal with the condition of spinal stenosis. As we have explained in other issues,
the anatomy of the spine is such that the spine is made up of 24 individual bones called vertebrae that are freely moveable, in order that we have the range of motion that we need to perform daily functions and lifestyle. These 24 vertebrae have a very unique and extensive network of muscles, ligaments and tendons that have the job of holding these bones and nerves in proper alignment. This alignment is vitally necessary in order for the nervous system to transmit its impulses of intelligence to the organs of the body as well as to virtually all the tissues and cells of the body.

Although it is wonderful that the body is able to move in a wide spectrum of range of motion, what can and does happen consequently, due to stress, is that these vertebrae are subject to misalignment. When this occurs, there is dysfunction and nerve interference that can have a devastating effect on the human frame and its associated tissues.
When individual spinal segments are subluxated (misaligned, causing associated nerve interference) over the course
of time, a degenerative process begins to breakdown the normal integrity of these bones, as well as causing nerve
pressure affecting the specific areas of the body these segments innervate. This degenerative process, in effect, is the
inflammation and deterioration of the joint capsules and bony surfaces, creating synovitis and arthritis, as well as disc disease and abnormal overgrowth of these bony surfaces.

Spinal stenosis is characterized by the narrowing of the canal of the spinal cord and of the base of the nerve roots, and at the areas where the nerve roots emit the spine to innervate the tissues. This narrowing and degeneration of the spine can happen for various reasons. When the spine becomes misaligned due to the many types of stress we are subject to over the years — physical, mental and chemical — degenerative changes become evident on x-ray. They cause osteophyte formation (small bony projections) that irritate the joint structures, as well as arthritic changes, and increase calcium infiltration along these joints. These degenerative changes are frequently referred to as
spondylosis. All of these changes can narrow the canal formations where the nerve roots exit, creating the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Idiopathic scoliosis, disc degenerative changes, thickening of the spinal ligaments and the aging process can all contribute to the cause of spinal stenosis.

Symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary due to the area where the stenosis is. Most commonly there will be weakness, numbness, cramping, along with muscle spasms often accompanied by associated pain in the arms or hands and sometimes into the leg, causing yet another condition called sciatica. When the nerve pressure is at the lower levels of the nervous system, at the area of the cauda equina, there can develop problems with control of the bowel and or
bladder. Here again we see that pressure and interference of the nervous system plays as a causative role of the disease mechanism when referring to cause and effect in the human body.

There is a plethora of ways to treat the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Non steroidal anti- inflammatants may be prescribed, as well as steroid injections into the sac and membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. Hyperextension exercises and abdominal core exercises have been recommended to strengthen the surrounding connective tissue,
as well as increasing the mobility of the joints. Physical therapy has been used to decrease pain.

Even surgery can be necessary, particularly when, due to the lack of normal nerve function, the bladder and bowel lose their ability to perform normally. Of course I would be remiss if not to say that chiropractic care has been very successful in increasing the mobility and normal function of the joints, thereby lessening the risk of spinal degeneration over the years due to poor spinal hygiene. It is therefore extremely important to take care of the health of the spine, with proper attention to posture, exercise, nutrition and the maintenance of proper alignment
throughout the course of our lives, as this can have an effective role in preventing the cause of many arthritic and degenerative problems, including spinal stenosis.•

Dr. Jeffrey M. Davis, DC has been practicing chiropractic since 1976, and maintains his office in Hillsdale, NJ.
He welcomes any questions about the marvels of modern natural chiropractic practice.

Source Exceptional Parent Magazine

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