Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis.

Stenosis is another word for “narrowing,” so if your chiropractor diagnoses you with spinal stenosis, it means the passage through which your spinal cord or nerves run is partially obstructed. As experts in musculoskeletal conditions, chiropractors treat stenosis using a variety of techniques.

Although spinal stenosis does not always result in symptoms, it can cause discomfort ranging from mild to debilitating. In severe cases, it can be difficult to walk even a moderate distance without pain. Stenosis can occur in two separate areas of the spine:

  • stenosis of the spinal canal, which spans the length of the entire spine and houses the spinal cord
  • stenosis of the intervertebral foramen, that is, the holes through which the nerves exit out of the spine to go to other areas of the body

Stenosis is common among adults over 50, affecting both women and men. Less commonly, people develop it when they are younger, typically due to an underlying condition such as a spinal injury.

Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis

The obstructions may or may not press on the sensitive nerves that fan out from the spinal cord. When nerves are irritated by pressure within the narrowing holes of the spine, it can cause a variety of symptoms that generally develop slowly. If left untreated, depending on its extent and severity, spinal stenosis can affect your daily routine. The most common places for spinal stenosis to occur are in your neck and lower back. Not everyone will have symptoms, but here’s what people with stenosis may experience:

Neck (cervical) stenosis

  • Neck pain, which may be mild
  • Burning pain, numbness or tingling in your upper extremities
  • Weakness in your upper extremities
  • Problems with balance and gait
  • Problems using your hands

Lower back (lumbar) stenosis

  • Burning pain in buttock or leg (sciatica) that may travel down to the foot
  • Back pain
  • Numbness or tingling in your buttock or leg
  • Weakness in your buttock or leg
  • The feeling that your foot is “slapping” the ground (foot drop)
  • Severe cramping of the calves when walking
  • Pain in the calves or legs that eases when you bend forward, sit or lie down

Causes of Spinal Stenosis

The most common cause of spinal stenosis is arthritis—wear and tear on the joints and discs of your spinal column. As you age, the cartilage that covers these joints is worn away in the same way that arthritis affects your knees or fingers. As the cartilage deteriorates, your body may grow new bony material to try to support the joints, known as bone spurs. The spurs don’t always cause problems, but when they grow in such a way that they compress a nerve, it can be very painful and may require surgical intervention.

Your body may also try to compensate for the loss of cartilage by increasing the size of the ligaments that connect your joints in your lower back. As they take up more space, they reduce the diameter of the spinal canal.

Bulging or slipped (herniated) discs or an abnormal curvature of the spine (scoliosis) can also cause spinal stenosis.

Chiropractic Treatment for Stenosis

Chiropractors treat spinal stenosis without drugs or surgery, often using a combination of therapies to relieve pain and restore function and mobility. Treatment will depend on your particular diagnosis and situation, but typical chiropractic techniques for spinal stenosis include the following:

  • Manual techniques: We often use a spinal adjustment called “flexion distraction and decompression.” Patients lie on a specific adjustable table meant to widen the gaps of the spinal structures and balance out the pressures on the spinal discs. While lying on the table, gentle pressure may be applied to very specific places on your back. This double action of bending and pressing in opposite directions opens the spaces of the spinal canal, relieving pressure on the delicate structures.
  • Stretches and traction: Other stretching or traction techniques can also open spaces of the spinal canal, loosen back or neck muscles, and offset posture problems that develop as a result of stenosis.
  • At-home exercises: Chiropractors can show you exercises to strengthen your back and correct your posture. Over time, they can reduce pain and delay the progression of stenosis.
  • Modifications to your daily routine: Depending on your symptoms, we may suggest changes that will help you through the day, such as avoiding sitting for long periods of time and possibly using a supportive brace.
  • Massage and ultrasound: Both techniques can reduce the cramping, stiffness and pain of stenosis.
  • Low voltage electric current, cold laser therapy, or hot and cold packs: These options increase blood circulation to inflamed areas and relax muscle spasms, relieving pain.

Spinal stenosis is a common condition that can interfere with your life—a little or a lot. With the conservative treatment we offer, chiropractic care can help you feel better, stand straighter and keep you going in a healthier direction.

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I've been coming to see Dr. Bob since 1984 for my back pain. After each visit, the vast improvement lasts about one whole month. Even after all these years, Dr. Bob continues to provide outstanding care for me, my children, and my grandchildren. I've referred several people to HealthWise Chiropractic, so they too can see the results I have. My favorite part of my visits is the friendliness and professionalism of the staff and doctors and, of course, the results I get that improve my daily living."
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  • "About ten years ago I was at the gym, I bent over and couldn't get up, the pain was horrible. I contacted Healthwise and Dr. Mike gave me an emergency appointment that evening. He did a complete physical and x-ray before he started any treatment. After my first treatment I was able to stand up and walk with minimal pain. With a few visits I was back to normal. I continued treatments as needed for the next several years.
    I see Dr. Bob regularly to stay fit and pain-free. He tests my strength and weakness to determine the best treatment. Our open discussion led him to help my acid reflux. I now exercise and walk as is essential for a septuagenarian.
    I told Dr. Bob that I was starting to get knee pain that I thought was arthritis; I didn't think chiropractic care could help. He told me about new equipment to help. I look forward to improvement.
    I was a skeptic of chiropractic care, now I would recommend HealthWise to anyone with chronic/simple pain. It worked for me. It can work for you!"
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  • "I had a very limited understanding of chiropractic care until I tried it for the first time 12 years ago. I came in with severe pain in my neck, which prohibited me from moving my head. I was greeted by a kind staff, had an exam and x-rays done on my first appointment followed by an adjustment. I felt so much better after my first adjustment and by following the treatment plan my headaches and migraines improved. My overall health has improved because of chiropractic care. Dr. Bob helps make sure that I am taking the right supplements to optimize my health and fitness performance. They have helped me with allergies, knee and shoulder pain, and earaches. I had no idea when I began my chiropractic journey just how much help the doctors and staff at HealthWise would be at improving my quality of life."
    Britt H.
  • "I have been a patient at HealthWise Chiropractic for over 20 years. In the past and currently I am seeing Dr. Bob, however, I have seen all docs at Healthwise. My general issues are usually seasonally related to sinus and allergies. Recently I have been receiving treatment for my hip and lower back. Dr. Bob zeros in on trigger points and quickly relieves my pain. He is a wealth of knowledge and offers help and suggestion on my health issues. The staff is friendly and helpful. I leave feeling better and I believe helps to keep my body aligned and energized. I have also come in after falls, injuries and surgeries. I truly believe my adjustments at the time added to a quicker recovery."
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  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Bob for two and half months. . I see him for an adjustment every two weeks. I started seeing a chiropractor for the first time in January 2021 while working in Florida for my continued lower back pain and chronic bilateral hip bursitis. Because my pain was mostly relieved with continued adjustments, I decided to continue with treatment when returning to Wisconsin. I have been very happy with my continued pain relief/adjustments at HealthWise. I highly recommend anyone with chronic back and neck pain to try chiropractic adjustments here at HealthWise. It will make your life better."
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  • "Dr. Mike is fantastic! He is very personable….will take time to really to your needs… I enjoy my visits…the maintenance has helped tremendously…..and he is there when the emergency pops up! Excellent Chiropractor!"
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