Spinal stenosis is a condition where the openings in the vertebrae through which the spinal cord or spinal nerves pass become narrower. Symptoms associated with these narrower openings are numbness, weakness, and radiating pain.
The two most common types of stenosis are cervical stenosis, which affects the neck, and lumbar stenosis, which affects the lower back. Thoracic stenosis (in the middle of the spine) also occurs but is less common.
Cervical stenosis can cause arm numbness and pain and, in severe cases, weakness and paralysis. Lumbar stenosis can cause sciatica, which is pain radiating down the leg when the sciatic nerve is compressed.
Stenosis is considered a normal part of aging and typically starts around midlife. Symptoms usually appear gradually and increase over time.
What can be done about it?
Special exercises, such as cycling, and activity modification that involve leaning forward can provide relief.
Conventional medical treatment includes prescribing
- anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or Aspirin
- narcotics, antidepressants, or muscle relaxants for pain relief
- epidural cortisone injections
- decompression surgery in severe cases
These treatments come with risks and undesirable side effects.
If you have spinal stenosis, it is important to
- exercise regularly. Exercise improves spine flexibility and strengthens the back muscles that help support your spine.
- maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts more pressure on the spine and can make symptoms worse.
- maintain a good posture. Sit up straight on chairs that support the natural curves of your spine and use proper lifting techniques.
Massage can help alleviate spinal stenosis because it relaxes surrounding muscles and improves circulation to the affected area.
Acupuncture not only improves blood flow but also blood pressure to the affected nerves. Studies show that acupuncture can be effective even when patients try it as a last resort in advanced cases. Regular treatments allow patients to reduce their pain medications and improve their quality of life.
Other benefits of acupuncture over conventional treatments are that it has no side effects compared with prescription drugs and is safer than surgery.
Acupuncture is a great addition to treatment for anyone with spinal stenosis who is taking prescription painkillers and is considering surgery.