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Back Talk: Spinal stenosis is abnormal narrowing of spinal canal

By By Dr. Layne Towery
July 9, 2013 at 2:09 a.m.


I am 52 years old. I have had low back and right hip pain for five weeks. Bending, stooping and getting up from sitting hurts. Standing/walking feels a little better. Pain pills do not help. An MRI confirmed I have lumbar spinal stenosis. What is that? Do I need surgery? What other treatment options do I have?

Spinal stenosis is a abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that may occur at any level of the spine. This narrowing causes restriction in the spinal canal.

Cervical spinal stenosis is the most dangerous because it involves compression of the spinal cord.

In lumbar spinal stenosis, only the spinal nerve roots can be compressed. Symptoms include low back and leg pain, numbness, tingling and weakness of the legs.

The most common complaint is increased leg pain while standing long periods. Arthritis, spurs and ligament thickening are the most common causes of spinal stenosis.

Given your history and age, it sounds like you have a mechanical back problem, which is pinching a nerve in the low back. Various motions hurt, while standing and walking help. Therefore, your spinal stenosis appears to be a incidental finding, not your real diagnosis.

Acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation will help reduce the pain. Ice your back three to four times a day for 30 minutes to help with the inflammation.

A home transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, TRANS, machine will also help relieve the pain. Find you a good massage therapist. Always try conservative care before back surgery.

I have pain, numbness and tingling in my right hand and all my fingers. My neck and right arm aches. Carpal tunnel syndrome was my diagnosis. What is carpal tunnel syndrome, and how is it treated?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is an entrapment of the median nerve at the carpal tunnel in the wrist.

The median nerve controls the thumb, index finger and half of the middle finger. It does not affect the ring finger or little finger.

Since all fingers are involved, you have more than just carpal tunnel syndrome. You may also have a pinched nerve in your neck or what is called a "double crush syndrome."

This is compression of the median nerve in the wrist as well as compression of the sixth and seventh nerves in the neck. It usually involves the arm hurting or aching.

Try using a cock-up splint for your wrist at night. Ice the base of your neck several times a day for 30 minutes. Aleve may also help. Chiropractic manipulation and acupuncture are very effective for alleviating the pain and correcting the pinched nerves. Surgery is rarely needed.

I want to try acupuncture for my chronic back and neck pain. I am terrified of needles. How big are the needles, and do they hurt? How do these needles help pain?

Acupuncture has been used for pain control for more than 5,000 years. It was first introduced in the U.S. in 1972. Acupuncture needles vary in size.

I use 36 gauge stainless steel disposable needles. They are extremely small and are about the size of a pore in your skin. Five will fit inside the hole of a standard hypodermic needle.

Studies have shown that acupuncture stimulates the body to release opioid peptides like endorphins to help with pain.

Patients rarely complain that the needles hurt. They usually say it is very relaxing and many times fall asleep during their treatment.

Layne Towery is a Victoria chiropractor and acupuncturist and can be reached at towerygl@yahoo.com or 361-570-6284.

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