Spinal Stenosis. What is it ? Is it Treatable ? How did I get it ?
Posted Jun 02 2009 4:35pm
The San Francisco and Marin County patients I consult with are often times confused about their diagnosis of Spinal Stenosis. I find that many chronic back pain sufferers that have had X-rays, MRI exams, and CT scans, which have revealed findings such as Spinal Stenosis, Disc Herniations, and various forms of DDD (Degenerative Disc Disease) and Arthritis, do not really understand what is going on and how these conditions manifest. After doing an on line search on Spinal Stenosis I can understand why. Here is the opening paragraph of the Mayo Clinics Introduction to Spinal Stenosis:
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more areas in your spine — most often in your upper or lower back. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord or on the nerves that branch out from the compressed areas. This can lead to a number of problems, depending on which nerves are affected. In general, spinal stenosis can cause cramping, pain or numbness in your legs, back, neck, shoulders or arms; a loss of sensation in your extremities; and sometimes problems with bladder or bowel function.
Mild symptoms of spinal stenosis are often helped by pain relievers, physical therapy or a supportive brace. In more serious cases of spinal stenosis, doctors may recommend surgery to create additional space for the spinal cord or nerves. Although this usually provides some relief, it can't repair damaged nerves or stop the degenerative processes that often lead to spinal stenosis. Unfortunately, even after surgery, symptoms of spinal stenosis may recur or worsen over time.
I underlined the parts of the opening paragraphs of the introduction that are confusing to me. The medical community seems to just take it for granted that spinal degeneration is a foregone conclusion and there is nothing that can be done to slow it down or reverse it. If you read this opening statement carefully you would wonder why anyone would want to have surgery that MAY provide SOME relief (with all the risk of surgery), then, even after the surgery may recur or worsen over time. Not to mention the fact that the actual underlying cause (the degenerative process) is not even addressed. Sure, there are congenital factors that predispose some to stenosis, such as being born with a small spinal canal, or scoliosis. But, for the most part Spinal Stenosis occurs because of abnormal bone deposits, disc herniations, and ligament calcification and enlargement occluding the passageways where the spinal cord and nerves reside. These degenerative processes are the result of lifestyle choices made by us. What we eat (The typical American diet is NOT good). How much and how we exercise (our society sports a 60% obesity rate) . How much rest we get. What kind of pillow and mattress we use. How we setup our workstation. How much mental stress we expose ourselves to. How we relax. How many physical traumas we have had (sports injuries, auto accidents, spills and falls)and how we treated them. Add to this drugs (especially prescription drugs) and alcohol, as well as tobacco and caffeine, and you have all the ingredients for Spinal Degeneration (as well as most other degenerative conditions). All of these lifestyle components involve choices by us that either steer us in the direction of health or illness (degeneration). So, why not teach patients about the cause of degenerative conditions so they can learn to make better decisions. Healthier decisions will help create a healthier internal environment (what we call "fertile soil") so degenerative and inflammatory conditions can be given the chance to recover and heal. This famous quote says it best:
"The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease" -Thomas A. Edison
P.S. The DRX 9000 nonsurgical spinal decompression system (In my opinion) is the safest, most advanced method of enlarging the disc space and treating Spinal Stenosis. If done in conjunction with lifestyle modifications and inflammation reducing dietary changes, the results can be remarkable, even in the worst of cases.