Inversion Tables to Ease Your Painful Spinal Stenosis
When spinal stenosis rears its ugly head, there is only one thing on your mind: relief. This condition can quite literally cramp your lifestyle. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options. Among the therapies that are currently available, inversion tables offer a safe way to manage spinal stenosis without the side-effects that medications can bring. Here is what you need to know if you are suffering from spinal stenosis.
What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spine. As a result of this narrowing, the nerves that travel through the center of the spine can become compressed. This compression causes pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. Over time, these symptoms can get worse. However, it is also possible to have spinal stenosis and still not experience any symptoms of this condition. Only a doctor can diagnose this condition. Imaging tests, such as CAT scans and MRIs can detect this narrowing. But even then, when stenosis is clearly visible, some patients don’t have any identifiable symptoms.
Many things can cause spinal stenosis, including:
- Overgrowth of bone
- Herniated discs
- Thickened ligaments
- Spinal injuries
Aging, past trauma, congenital deformities, and genetic conditions are all risk factors for developing spinal stenosis. When symptoms do become noticeable, they usually begin gradually and worsen slowly over time. If you are having any symptoms that concern you, always reach out to your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Complications such as numbness, weakness, balance problems, incontinence, and in severe cases, paralysis, can arise if this condition is left untreated.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is classified according to which portion of the spine is narrowing. If the narrowing is occurring in the neck, it is called cervical spinal stenosis. On the other hand, if the narrowing is happening in the lower part of the spine, it is referred to as lumbar spinal stenosis. Rarely, the narrowing can take place in the middle of the spine, which is called thoracic spinal stenosis. Each area of the spine that is affected by this narrowing will result in different symptoms in specific areas of the body.
Cervical spinal stenosis
When the spinal column of the neck begins to narrow, the result is cervical stenosis. If this narrowing continues, the spinal cord can become compressed, causing a host of troublesome symptoms. In severe cases, the compression of the spinal cord can cause neurological deficits, which is called myelopathy. The symptoms of cervical stenosis can occur anywhere below where the spinal cord has become impinged. Symptoms of cervical stenosis include:
- Weakness or numbness
- Reduced fine motor skills
- Changes in walking
- Neck pain and/or stiffness
- Nerve pain
In general, symptoms of cervical stenosis do not become noticeable until the spinal cord has been compressed by 30 percent. The most common first symptom of this condition is pain and numbness in the arms and hands. Severe complications, such as incontinence and paralysis, can occur if cervical stenosis is not treated properly by a medical professional.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
While narrowing of the spine in the neck is called cervical stenosis, narrowing of the spine in the lower back is called lumbar stenosis. The most common symptom of lumbar stenosis is increasing pain in the legs when walking, referred to as pseudoclaudication. Symptoms of lumbar stenosis begin slowly and gradually worsen. These symptoms also tend to come and go. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Leg pain (sciatica)
- Leg pain with walking (claudication)
- Tingling, weakness, or numbness that radiates from the lower back into the buttocks and legs.
While patients don’t suffer from much pain while resting, when they walk, the pain can be excruciating. However, this pain is relieved almost as soon as the person sits back down. It is estimated that as many as 400,000 suffer from the pain of lumbar stenosis.
Thoracic spinal stenosis
Narrowing of the middle section of the spine is much less common than narrowing in the neck or lower back. Unlike the rest of the spine, the vertebrae of the thoracic spine are joined to the ribs. Problems in the thoracic spine are less common because this part of the spine is sturdier than the neck and lower back. However, loss of mobility in this area can make bending and twisting exceedingly difficult. Symptoms of thoracic stenosis include:
- Rib pain
- Back pain
- Pain radiating down the back or legs
- Aching in the legs that leads to difficulty walking
- Pain in one or more internal organs
It is worth noting that it’s common for patients with thoracic stenosis to also experience narrowing of the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine as well. Back problems such as degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, bulging discs, and bone spurs make spinal stenosis more likely to occur.
Spinal Stenosis Treatment
There is a variety of treatment options for spinal stenosis. What methods will work best for you will depend on a multitude of factors. Your general health and what caused your spinal column to begin narrowing both play a critical role in how you should treat your condition. Your doctor will be able to explain what treatments are best for you.
Medications: Over-the-counter medications, including NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, reduce pain and inflammation. Prescription medications to treat stenosis include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and narcotic pain relievers.
Physical therapy: Builds strength and endurance, increases flexibility and stability, and also improves balance.
Steroid injections: Injections of corticosteroids reduce inflammation and ease the pain of stenosis.
Decompression procedure: For patients with lumbar stenosis and thickened ligaments, this procedure relieves pain by removing part of the thickened ligament with needles.
Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Alternative treatments for spinal stenosis include chiropractic adjustments, massage therapy, acupuncture, and the use of inversion tables. Here are our reviews of the best inversion tables out there, so you can choose the best one if that is your choice for treatment.
Spinal Stenosis and Inversion Tables
Patients who suffer from some kinds of spinal stenosis find that using an inversion table helps relieve their troublesome symptoms. While treatment with an inversion table will not cure spinal stenosis, it can alleviate the pain. Inversion tables use gravity to increase the space between the vertebrae. This, in turn, decreases the pressure that is being placed on the nerves of the spine. The result is less pain and better function.
According to a study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, inversion tables can help patients with back pain get control of their symptoms and return to work. The study “followed 175 patients who were unable to work due to various types of back pain. After eight inversion table treatments, 155 of these patients were able to return to their jobs full time.”
If you are wondering how to use an inversion table, check out our article, here, for great information.
Fight Back Against Spinal Stenosis
If you are concerned that your symptoms might be spinal stenosis, contact your doctor to get a definitive diagnosis. Your physician’s job is to determine what is causing your pain and help you figure out which treatment options are right for you. This condition is painful and can be life-altering, but at the same time, we have more ways to fight back against stenosis than ever before. Whether you choose to use standard treatments, alternative therapies, or a combination of both, relief is possible.