Acupuncture : The Best Treatment for Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spaces within the spine, which often leads to the pressure on the nerves that travel through the backbone. It commonly occurs in the lower back and the neck, causing pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness, which can worsen over time. Still, some people with this problem may not face symptoms at all.
Stenosis can be caused by various factors, such as wear and tear changes in the spine. Although doctors often suggest surgery, it is not the only solution you have. Besides massages and physical therapies, alternative treatments such as acupuncture for stenosis have proven to be excellent in addressing stenosis symptoms with a high-efficiency rate.
If you want to know more about how this treatment helps stenosis, keep reading and find out how you can benefit from alternative medicine.
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A Brief Introduction into Stenosis Symptoms and Causes
Stenosis is characterized by narrowing of the spaces in your spine, and it commonly develops in the lower back (lumbar stenosis) and the neck (cervical stenosis).
This condition often provokes numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the area where it occurs. Some patients may feel no signs of stenosis at all, but once they’re present, they will start to worsen as the condition becomes more severe.
Symptoms linked with the cervical stenosis include:
- Neck pain
- Numbness and tingling in hands, arms, feet, or legs
- Problems with balance
- Difficulty walking
- Bowel or bladder dysfunction (it’s common in more severe cases).
The problems with the lumbar spine include:
- Back pain
- Weakness in feet or legs
- Numbness or tingling in feet or legs
- Pain in one or both legs when standing for extended periods of time, or while walking. This pain usually reduces when you bend forward or sit.
Stenosis can be caused by various factors. Some of them are rooted in genetics, while others come as a result of an underlying spine problem. That said, a person can develop stenosis due to overgrowth of bone (osteochondroma), herniated/bulged discs, thickened ligaments, tumors, and spinal injuries.
People over 50 are more prone to developing this spinal issue, but it can occur in the younger population, as well.
Untreated severe stenosis rarely leads to complications, but in some cases, it can cause permanent balance problems and paralysis. To prevent the potential onset of these inconveniences, it’s essential to start your treatments on time – that way, you’ll improve your physical well-being and become more motivated to enjoy your life to the fullest.
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How is Stenosis Diagnosed?
To determine whether you have stenosis, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and medical history and conduct a necessary physical evaluation. Besides, you may need to do imaging tests to get a clearer picture of what is going on with your spine. These tests include Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), X-ray, or CT/CT myelogram.
Although these tests are valuable and helpful, you may want to try a more innovative diagnosis option, such as Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA) and Functional Movement System (FMS), which aim to find the fundamental cause of your spinal or muscular dysfunction and determine the most efficient treatment for addressing not only the main problem but the underlying root itself.
Once your SFMA-certified practitioner has identified the dysfunction sources, he/she can use different tools to address the problem. These tools often come as a result of the combination of the most efficient treatments that have provided fast and long-lasting results so far.
Thanks to performing SFMA/FMS tests, practitioners can come up with the prospective treatments that may combine any of the following therapies:
Acupuncture for Spinal Stenosis
Acupuncture originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and it is one of the most commonly used techniques for addressing a wide variety of degenerative conditions. It involves the use of small, thin, and sterile needles placed into the specific acupoints on the body, causing no pain or side effects.
The stimulation of these points helps release the vital energy, better known as qi, responsible for a person’s well-being in both physical and emotional ways. Acupuncture is incredibly useful in treating pain, back pain, neck pain, and any chronic pain that prevents you from performing your daily activities.
Acupuncture for stenosis is an entirely safe procedure that is often applied three times a week for six weeks. Still, the exact number of therapies will be determined by your practitioner, who will consider your condition and your response to therapies. Acupuncture is often combined with other means of treatment since it provides more significant pain reduction that way.
Your treatments may start with manual acupuncture, in which the needles are stimulated by hand. Later, the acupuncturist may include the electro-stimulation to foster your improvement and reestablish strength in your lower back muscles.
Acupuncture reduces pain by encouraging blood circulation and the production of endorphins, which play a significant role in creating the body’s natural painkillers. Other chemicals induced by acupuncture include opioids that have an analgesic effect.
Electroacupuncture for Stenosis
In case you don’t respond to traditional acupuncture the way you expected, your practitioner may suggest a more advanced option, which includes electroacupuncture. This treatment is characterized by the use of small electric current for needle stimulations, and it has been used for treating lumbar and lower limb symptoms.
Recent studies have shown that electroacupuncture plays a vital role in the production of endorphins and creating a pain-free body environment. Electro-stimulation transmits the energy to the spinal cord much easier, which is why the entire process delivers better and faster results.
The sessions of electroacupuncture are often given two times a week until the pain has been reduced to 50% of the original pain. From that point, the visits are reduced to weekly sessions.
Dry Needling for Stenosis
Lower back pain is often linked to a spinal issue, including lumbar spinal stenosis, which can be a quite painful and potentially disabling condition. The symptoms of this spinal disorder have been treated with orthopedic dry needling, which has provided significant outcomes in pain reduction and ability reestablishment.
Orthopedic dry needling is used to deactivate the trigger points, which tend to cause pain and reduce your range of motion. This approach is rooted in Western medicine, and it’s performed based on the knowledge of the human body anatomy. It involves the use of thin filiform needles for stimulating specific trigger points, and its goal is to help patients eliminate pain and retrieve the freedom of movement.
Your practitioner will set the amount of treatments you should receive based on your condition. He/she will also recommend a treatment plan that combines dry needling with other therapies to achieve better and more long-lasting results.
Does Acupuncture Help Spinal Stenosis?
Acupuncture treatments can significantly reduce back or neck pain resulting from spinal stenosis. It’s way more efficient than many therapies that involve drugs and pharmaceuticals, and since it addresses the problem holistically, you may expect more long-term results and better general health.
A practitioner may provide numerous combinations of acupuncture and other treatments to help you recover with more efficiency. The sessions will motivate you to implement a healthier lifestyle, do exercise, and get rid of all the bad habits that might provoke the onset of a wide range of diseases.
Acupuncture has also provided excellent outcomes in treating complex musculoskeletal and neurological conditions such as:
Massage for Spinal Stenosis
Physical therapy is another effective treatment for spinal stenosis. Massages, corrective exercises, and alternative approaches deliver significant outcomes in pain reduction and retrieval of the ability to move seamlessly.
Massage therapies eliminate pain and stiffness caused by stenosis. Although it doesn’t focus on the spine itself, there are numerous modalities of massages that focus on the back and back muscles. By using different massage styles, therapists can relax the back and ease discomfort caused by stenosis or any other problem.
Active Release Techniques (ART) for Stenosis
Active Release Techniques (ART) are manual therapy techniques that aim to correct soft tissue restrictions that provoke pain and mobility obstacles. It’s an incredibly efficient treatment for injured muscles, ligaments, fasciae, tendons, and nerves. It uses specific depth and tension in order to address the problem entirely and break up scar tissue to restore the function of the muscle.
ART provides different methods that improve posture and correct movement patterns. Even after you’ve finished with ART, your practitioner may suggest certain corrective exercises to do at home in order to prevent the problem from recurring.
ART can be combined with dry needling, moxibustion, or acupuncture.
Gua Sha Massage for Stenosis
Gua Sha originates from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and it’s performed on parts of the body where it is believed that blood circulation has become stagnant. Certified gua sha practitioner will apply the gentle scraping to the skin covering the problematic area, intending to improve blood circulation and foster healing.
This type of massage therapy is convenient for people suffering from chronic back or neck pain, including spinal stenosis. The entire session is useful for treating muscle tightness, soreness, pain, and other abnormalities that might be present.
Gua sha is generally safe, but it shouldn’t be applied to damaged skin. People who take blood thinners should avoid it, as well.
Natural Remedies for Spinal Stenosis and Pain
Herbal therapies are often used as complementary treatments for stenosis or other issues you might be facing. A certified Chinese herbalist will create a unique herbal formula for your condition and suggest combining it with acupuncture, dry needling, physical therapies, or other treatments you receive. That way, you’ll notice the improvement much sooner.
Herbal remedies may be taken orally or topically, while there is also a group of anti-inflammatory formulas. When applied as massage oils, they can ease the nerve pain and tension.
Self-care is another vital phase of your treatment and recovery. Apart from regular follow-up appointments with your practitioner to monitor your condition, you should implement the following:
- Painkillers: Analgesics such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation, and you can take them whenever you feel discomfort. However, follow the drug’s dosage guide and don’t overdo it.
- Hot or cold packs: Applying hot or cold packs may help you reduce pain due to cervical spinal stenosis.
- A healthy weight: Obesity is one of the most common reasons for developing spinal issues, which is why you should maintain a healthy weight. It’s recommended to lose some pounds and reduce pain by taking the stress off the back. This is essential for lumbar stenosis.
- Regular exercise: Workout that includes stretching and strengthening can help open up the spine. Still, you should consult your practitioner before beginning any workout in order to ensure safety.
- Cane or walker: If you feel that you need more stability, using a cane or walker can help alleviate pain by allowing you to bend forward while walking.
Other treatment options for stenosis include:
- Steroid injections
- Decompression procedure