Spinal Stenosis is a medical term that seems to be more and more prevalent in the chiropractic field and many patients fear the worst when they hear it. So let’s clear the air about stenosis and give you a realistic picture of what it is. Stenosis is defined as a narrowing or stricture of a passage or vessel. In the spine it occurs when the spinal or foraminal canal narrows. Think of the main highway funnelling from four lanes to one. Your spinal cord travels from the bottom of the brain to the top of the low back through the central canal. The nerves that divide off the spinal cord and travel to every cell throughout the body -- carrying all the messages from and to the brain -- exit the spine through a small space called the foraminal canal (think the narrowing of the exit off the highway). You live your entire life through your central nervous system, which is encased in the spine. It’s your master control, your communication system, your command central. If there is a bottleneck traffic situation slowing the messages from your central nervous system to every function in your body, you’re not as healthy as you can be regardless of how you feel.
So how and why does the spinal canal narrow? The narrowing is a degenerative process that often occurs as a result of improper spinal function and movement, called a subluxation. When the spine is subluxated and not moving correctly, the body naturally finds a way to assure that the spine is as stable as possible. The way it does this is by laying down bone in areas that it otherwise wouldn’t and, as a result, it often protrudes into the canal and narrows it.
What does this mean for the patient? Often this can be present with no symptoms to report. Because there is no pain, patients don’t think they have a problem so they don’t need to see a chiropractor. That’s what makes it so tricky: All the while they can have subluxated vertebral segments causing spinal degeneration in subtle increments that affect their overall quality of life without the patient even noticing. Others may experience a wide variety of pain and symptoms with the narrowing of the canals. The type and intensity of pain will be different based on the individual, affected area, and severity of condition.
If you’ve been told you have spinal stenosis and are concerned -- as you should be -- and want to slow or perhaps stop the degenerative process by dealing with the root cause, drop in to to see your local chiropractor. As a D.C. I would love to let you know how we can help you get through that construction zone on your communication superhighway with a bit more ease and efficiency. It’s a trip worth making quickly.