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Spinal Stenosis and Decompression Therapy

Posted Jun 24 2008 1:08pm

Images1Spinal 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 your spinal cord or on the nerves that branch out from the compressed areas.         

Mayo Clinic Website

Another great source of information on stenosis is the Spinal Stenosis Health Center

So...spinal stenosis can occur in the spinal canal, or in the foramina...the openings where the nerves exit from in between the bones. This can happen from calcium deposits secondary to spinal degeneration or osteoarthritis. Or, the stenosis can be due to a herniated or bulging disc protruding into the spinal canal or foramina.

It is also possible to be born with a congenital stenosis...although this is not very common.

Bony stenosis is very difficult to treat. About the only option (other than injections or physical therapy) is to perform a surgical laminectomy, which removes part of the back of the vertebrae to open up the spinal canal and remove nerve or spinal cord pressure. Recent studies show this to be very effective as compared to nonsurgical options...which DID NOT include spinal decompression.

Spinal stenosis secondary to herniated discs, is usually treated by surgical discectomy...cutting the portion of the disc off that is putting pressure on the nerve or spinal cord. This surgery has questionable outcomes because it changes the way forces are distributed on the rest of the discs...which can lead to more problems (not just my opinion) .

I honestly don't know the success rates of these procedures, but I know there are lots of failures, and some patients are scared to death of them. So, what are your choices if you don't want surgery?

Well...this is where nonsurgical spinal decompression should be considered.

Nonsurgical spinal decompression works best for herniated or bulging cervical or lumbar discs. But, I have also achieved favorable outcomes with degenerative stenosis...even severe cases...when nothing else would help.

Now, I don't know how long these results are going to last...and neither does anyone else. But I'll tell you what...they seem to be holding up pretty good.

We also manage expectations. If a patient has advanced spinal degeneration and spinal stenosis, our goals are to make things better than they are...sometimes just a little better. If they turn out to be a lot better...than we exceeded the expectations. And...all of our patients know there is a chance that nonsurgical spinal decompression might not help them at all.

These spinal conditions are very mysterious sometimes. You can look at two patients, the same age and level of spinal decay...but one is riddled with symptoms, and the other patient has none. One patient plays tennis three days a week...the other one can't move...the x-rays and MRI look the same.

So, to tell a patient the only option is surgery...just from the way the spine looks on a film...when there are other forms of treatment that have helped similar cases...I don't know...just doesn't make sense to me.

So, for your doctor, your friend, or anyone to tell you that there is no hope and that spinal decompression will not do anything for's just HOGWASH.

As long as you qualify medically...there are some exclusions...not everyone can do it...there's a chance it may help. It's a chance worth my biased opinion :) 

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