Can Chiropractic Help Spinal Stenosis?
“Is surgery my last option for spinalstenosis?”
Maybe yes … but maybe not!
Certainly, there is a time and a place for surgery. Spinalstenosis may be one of those reasons. But doesn’t it makesense to exhaust all-non surgical options first, if possible? Andideally through natural means?
You see, when it comes to the symptoms associated with spinalstenosis, it may not actually be the canal narrowing that is theissue. Let me explain.
When it comes to spinal stenosis, there are two generalcategories: 1) anatomical spinal stenosis and 2) functional spinalstenosis.
Anatomical Spinal stenosis is the type you are probably familiarwith. It is there there is a physical narrowing of the spacebetween the vertebrae in your spine and your spinal cord. Spinalstenosis can be caused by things such as arthritis, disc bulging,and certain conditions like Paget’sdisease or other conditions that involve ossification of the ligaments inside the spinal canal.
So these are physical conditions that you can see on a CT scanwhere there is a narrowing of the spinal canal and that can bephysically compressing the spinal cord, leading to nerve damage.
The hallmark when surgery is truly required due tospinal stenosis is where there is a complete loss of feeling, motorfunction, or even organ function.
However - if you are not experiencing this level of nerve damageor spinal stenosis - there may be more to the story.
Here is where functional spinal stenosis specificallywhen it involved the alignment of the bones in the top of your neckmay play a significant role.
“What do the top bones in the neck have to do withfunctional spinal stenosis”
The first bone in your neck at the base of your skull is calledthe C1 vertebra or the atlas. The second bone in your neck is theC2 vertebra or axis. All the rest of the bones are numbered: C3-C7in the neck, T1-T12 in the middle of your back, and then L1-L5 inthe bottom of your back.
The opening at the base of your skull is called the foramen magnum,which means “large hole.”
At the level of the foramen magnum, the C1, and the C2 vertebra,there are a variety of unique properties of the spine thatoccur.
- Your brainstem sits at the level of the foramen magnum, C1, andC2 vertebrae. And your brainstem is the master control center foryour entire body.
- The C1 and C2 vertebrae are designed to allow your head tomove, which means that they are flexible but also susceptible toinjury. The top bones in your neck are essentially the mostimportant but also more fragile bones in your spine.
- The C1 and C2 vertebrae are physically connected to yourbrainstem and spinal cord by a series of thick ligaments calledmyodural ligaments or myodural bridges that serve two purposes:
- They maintain the integrity of your brainstem when you moveyour head so that it doesn’t get compressed
- They are believed to facilitate the flow of cerebrospinalfluid, which provides circulation, insulation, and energy for yourbrain.
This is the anatomical arrangement. So what does this have to dowith spinal stenosis?
Functional spinal stenosis offices not due to physicalcompression on the spinal cord, but instead when something isstretching or irritating the cord, like pulling on a piece ofstring.
Due to the relationships among the C1-C2 vertebrae, the myoduralligaments, and your spinal cord, it may be possible that a physicalinjury that has disrupted the normal alignment and/or movement ofthe bones in the top of your neck may exert a physical “pull” onthe nerves at the top of your spine.
Rather than allowing things to get compressed, your bodyintelligently adapts to this pressure for as long as possible bychanging your posture, muscle tone, etc. However, if the problemgoes unresolved long enough, it may, in turn, lead to degenerativechanges lower down in the body:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Hip pain
- Knee pain, etc.
So it is possible that the pain of spinal stenosis isnot directly due to the physical compression of the spinal cord,but may instead be due to physical tension that is coming fromsomewhere else in your spine.
And if so - if it is possible to correct the course of thistension or irritation - it may still be possible to help thesymptoms of spinal stenosis without surgery.
I repeat, there comes a point when surgery is the only optionfor spinal stenosis. When there is definite compression andresulting nerve damage such as a condition known as myelomalacia,surgery is indicated.
However, if there is still a chance that the body will be ableto repair - or even after surgery in order to assist with recovery- here is when you may have another option by getting the alignmentof the C1 and C2 vertebrae properly repositioned relative to yourhead.
Spinal stenosis and the upper cervicalspine
The C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) vertebrae contain a large number ofligaments that prevent your brainstem of the spinal cord frominjury. A large enough injury can certainly tear these ligaments,which is exceptionally dangerous and requires emergency medicalcare.
However, there is an infinite number of less-impactful injuriesthat don’t necessarily fracture or dislocate the bones in your neckbut can still cause them to shift from their normal center ofgravity and get stuck in an abnormal position.
The bones in your neck are constructed to move approximately1-2cm. As small as it sounds, even a 1-2mm displacement mayrepresent a 5-20% disruption.
Depending on where/how this displacement ends up affecting thenerves in your neck, you may end up developing headaches,migraines, neck pain, shoulder pain, dizziness, vertigo or otherneurological symptoms.
However, it is also possible that you feel nothing at all … atleast in the beginning!
Either way, if you have a 5-20% deviation in the normal positionof the bones in the upper part of your neck - and then compoundthose effects like interest over a 5, 10 or 20 year period, it ispossible that you may develop some pretty nasty issues downthe track, including issues akin to functional spinalstenosis.
The types of injuries I am describing are the common varietiesof things that you see on YouTube that you have probablyexperienced in a variety of ways in your own life:
- Kids falling off swings, playground equipment,trampolines,
- Teens falling off skateboards, surfboards, or other sportshits/concussions
- Young adults tripping over a curb, barrier or other sports-likeinjuries (e.g., bungee jumping)
- Adults suffering incidental injuries including car accidentsfall hits to the head, etc.
The potential list of injuries in infinite. And I think you willagree, that most of the things that I’m talking about soundsrelatively innocent.
What I am asking you simply to consider is the possibility thatthese “innocent” injuries are not so innocent. That they do have aneffect, even if it is not immediate. And that something like themmay also contribute towards something like functional spinalstenosis later down the track.
Something you may never have considered before.
If this makes sense and I’m sure that you will agree that itdoes - you may now be wondering how do you find out is somethinglike this may be affecting your spinal stenosis.
Here is a where a unique form of healthcare known as Blair uppercervical care may be able to help you if you experience thesymptoms of spinal stenosis
“How is upper cervical care different from a generalchiropractor?”
Blair upper cervical care is a special division of chiropracticthat was developed in the USA without the use of spinalmanipulation, twisting or cracking the neck.
The principle is simple: that by correcting the alignment forthe top bones in the dec - the atlas and the axis - and by reducingtension or irritation at the level of the brainstem, that is itpossible to restore normal body function. In turn, this allows yourbody to do what it is naturally designed to do - repair and healitself.
So rather than upper cervical care being a treatment for theeffects of spinal stenosis, it is a way of restoring the normalorder and empowering your own body to heal irrespective or symptomsand within limitations of time and matter.
An upper cervical chiropractic doctor has taken advanced studiesin order to be certified in an approach. The procedures first beginwith a specific, detailed examination of your nervous system.
These tests include posture and muscle tension tests, autonomicnerve assessments (commonly in the form of paraspinal computerizedthermography), and also 3D customized x-ray series, which allow anupper cervical chiropractic doctor to identify the exact degree anddirection of any misalignments between the bones in your neck.
With this information, an upper cervical chiropractic doctor isable to visualize the effect that these misalignments would behaving on your brainstem and spinal cord, and then make arecommendation of care in order to reduce that tension.
One of the things that make upper cervical care different fromgeneral chiropractic is that we are not looking to adjust the bonesin your neck every single time. In an upper cervical office,the fewer adjustments you need, the better you aredoing!
A Blair upper cervical adjustment is also exceptionallylow-force, using only the amount of force that you would use tofeel your pulse. Because there is no spinal manipulation,no twisting, and no cracking noise, many people ask if theadjustment has actually done anything. That is the reason weperform the tests that we do on every office visit.
It is to know that the adjustments you have received are havingthe desired effect on your body and nervous system.
“Where can I find an upper cervical chiropractor nearme?”
In Australia, there are only a small number of advancedcertified upper cervical chiropractic doctors.
Our resident and principal chiropractor, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, isan advanced certified instructor with the Blair upper cervicaltechnique, and teaches other chiropractors in Australia, NewZealand, and elsewhere overseas this unique form of healthcare.
Our practice, Atlas Health Australia is located in North Lakes,a suburb of North Brisbane. Not only do we provide upper cervicalchiropractic services for the local communities or North Lakes,Narangba, Petire, Mango Hill, Burpengary, North Harbour,Scarborough, Brighton, and Murrumba Downs, we also provide uppercervical care for the greater Brisbane area: Albany Creek,Auchenflower, Carindale, Cashmere, Chermside, The Gap, Hamilton,Everton Park, New Farm, Newstead, South Brisbane, Taringa,Teneriffe, and Toowong.
Many of our clients also travel from as far away as the GoldCoast, Ipswich, Toowoomba, and the Sunshine coast 60-90 minutes inone direction.
It is one of the reasons that we are actively looking to helpother chiropractic doctors learn this work: that so upper cervicalcare is available in every community and just down the streetaround Australia.
Until that day, we do the very best that we can serve the peoplein our Brisbane and North Lakes chiropractic communities.
Where’ve you are, if you would like more information aboutspinal stenosis or upper cervical care, we would very much like tohave a chat with you. You can schedule a free 15-minute over thephone consultation with our North Lakes chiropractic office at 073188 9329 to arrange a time with Dr. Jeffrey Hannah to discuss yourindividual case, spinal stenosis, and to ask any questions you mayhave in order to decide if care might be right for you.
You can alternatively click the Contact Us,and one of our office staff will return your email as soon aspossible.
If you have any questions about spinal stenosis, how uppercervical care may be able to help you, or where you can find yournearest upper cervical chiropractor, please let us know how we canhelp you.
Atlas Health Australia - A passion and purpose forhelping people get their lives back.
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