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6 Alternative Treatments for Spinal Stenosis

By January 1, 2023No Comments

Spinal stenosis is a wear-and-tear condition of the spine, which causes the narrowing of the spinal cord. The cord consists of a nerve bundle, which is compressed due to the pressure that results from the stenosis (narrowing). 

Since nerves transmit signals to and from the brain, spinal stenosis can cause numbness and pain to complete paralysis, depending on the severity of the disease.

While laminectomy (a surgical procedure) is the treatment of choice, it is associated with several possible complications. Therefore, for symptomatic relief and management of the condition, many people take to the several available methods for alternative treatment for spinal stenosis, 6 of which are:

1. Acupuncture

For a long time, it has been believed that the body has special energy points, each of which corresponds to specific parts. Acupuncture involves applying pressure by needles to stimulate points (Meridian lines) to treat pain and health complications in their respective parts. 

While acupuncture cannot reverse spinal stenosis, it can significantly reduce the associated back pain. In the case of severe pain, acupuncture has shown a 92% success rate, which points out to it being an effective alternative treatment for spinal stenosis. 

However, it is essential to mention that acupuncture can result in side effects like bleeding, bruising, and even exacerbation of symptoms. To avoid this, always get acupuncture done by an experienced and skilled practitioner. 

2. Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractic treatment involves adjusting, twisting, and manipulating muscles and joints. This helps relieve tension points, thus, reducing joint pain and body aches. 

The chiropractic adjustment is one of the best alternative treatments for spinal stenosis. A skilled chiropractor knows exactly how to fix the misalignment of the vertebrae and disc displacement. This creates space in between the spinal cord, thus, reducing compression on the nerves.

If done while the disease is still in the early stages of onset, chiropractic can prevent long-term, irreversible complications of spinal stenosis, such as severe nerve damage and degeneration. 

Additionally, this treatment method can also reduce pain and improve mobility, which is often associated with arthritis and other bone diseases that precede spinal stenosis. 

3. Yoga

Yoga is an ancient exercise that involves doing different physical poses, along with simultaneous deep breathing. 

These physical poses (also known as yoga asanas) involve a lot of muscles and joints, which is one of the primary reasons why they can serve as an alternative treatment for spinal stenosis. 

Here are some of the yoga poses you can practice to reduce pain and inflammation due to spinal stenosis:

  • Child’s Pose. In a child’s pose, you start by sitting on your heels, with your knees on each side (hip-width apart). Your hands should be resting on your thighs. Once you are in position, push your torso towards your thighs. At the same time, stretch your arms overhead while your palms and forehead rest on the floor. 
  • Cat Cow Variation. To do this variation, start by lifting your lower back from the ground while your knees and palms are positioned on the floor, supporting your pose. Gently arch your lower back towards the ground while also tilting your pelvis up.
  • Plank. The yoga plank pose involves positioning yourself on all fours on a flat surface. Your shoulder blade should be exactly above your hands, with your fingers apart and your middle finger pointing straight ahead. Once you are firm, draw the abdomen in and up. Alternatively, also extend each of your legs back with your toes tucked. 
  • Forward Fold. Forward fold pose involves bringing your upper body closer to the lower body. Stand on your toes, and lean forward, gently bringing your head as close to your knees as possible. Support the position by placing your hands at the back of your lower leg. 
  • Side-Lying Pose. The side-lying pose is another yoga position found effective for pain relief in spinal stenosis patients. It is performed at the end of the yoga sequence and is supposed to relax your body after strenuous exercise. Simply lie on each side of your body for 3 minutes each, with a pillow under your head.

When doing these yoga poses, concentrate on your breathing, and make sure to take deep breaths. 

4. Herbs

Having profound medicinal properties, herbs continue to be an integral element of ayurvedic medicine. Pain, swelling, and weakness are characteristic of spinal stenosis, and these symptoms can be managed with the anti-inflammatory action of the following herbs:

Cannabidiol

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is extracted from cannabis. Even though it is an active ingredient of the hemp plant, CBD does not cross the blood-brain barrier, i.e., its consumption does not cause addiction.

Certain patients with spinal stenosis are administered opioid-based drugs for pain relief. However, an opioid can potentially lead to abuse (in contrast with CBD).

The research found CBD to be a better, non-surgical, alternative treatment for spinal stenosis than opioids. It effectively alleviates pain and improves mobility without causing any significant side effects (as long as it is used in appropriate amounts). 

Ginger

Ginger is a common home staple. Its ability to restrict the production of inflammatory chemicals (leukotrienes) decreases pain in spinal stenosis. 

Spinal stenosis usually arises as a complication of pre-existing osteoarthritis. Arthritis is a degenerative disease of bone that involves friction at the level of the joint. This causes excruciating pain and swelling.

Additionally, the compression of nerves due to stenosis also results in pain and inflammation. This is why adding ginger to food or consuming it in powder /juice forms can help manage spinal stenosis symptoms.

Turmeric

The medicinal action of turmeric can be chalked up to its active ingredient, curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

It inhibits COX-2 and LOX (acid-derived substances involved in the inflammatory pathway of the body), which enables the use of turmeric as an alternative treatment for spinal stenosis. 

Citrullus Colocynthis

Citrullus colocynthis is a popular desert herb. In traditional medicine, citrus has been used as an analgesic and as an anti-inflammatory ingredient in natural supplements, as well as for topical application. 

Like turmeric, citrullus also inhibits COX-2 production and expression, which reduces inflammation and pain in spinal stenosis. 

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is a native Chinese plant and has, therefore, traditionally been an integral part of ancient Chinese medicine. 

Research shows the anti-neuroinflammatory effects of this herb, which especially make it a great alternative treatment for spinal stenosis. It reduces the release of prostaglandins, which are the primary chemicals involved in pain and cramps. 

Ocimum Sanctum

Ocimum sanctum is an aromatic herb that has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Apart from being a great analgesic, this herb is also effective against fungal and microbial infections, diabetes, nausea, spasms, and cardiovascular and hepatic (liver) complications. 

5. Cell-Based Therapies

Cell-based techniques, popularly known as stem cell therapy, are a wonderful, life-saving invention of modern science. It involves replacing damaged and dead cells with stem cells that are able to generate healthy tissue. 

Although most of these stem cells are used up in the developmental stage (before birth), some of them are present in the body lifelong, mainly concentrated in adipose tissue and bone marrow.

Spinal stenosis and its preceding osteoarthritis often impair the body’s ability to naturally renew dead cells. In this condition, a patient’s own stem cells are derived via fat tissue through Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue Transplant or MMAT, or bone marrow via Bone Marrow Concentrate or BMAC.

Grafting these autologous cells (taken from the patient’s own body) helps improve several diseases and health conditions, including spinal stenosis. The treatment relieves pain and other symptoms of the disease and is also effective in limiting its progression, which prevents further damage to the body tissues.  

Both MMAT and BMAC are performed within 1.5 to 2 hours, and the doctor will allow you to go home right after the procedure. To identify the exact location of spinal stenosis, the doctor will use live X-rays and Ultrasounds.

6. PRP

PRP, or platelet-rich plasma therapy, is another form of alternative treatment for spinal stenosis. The procedure is based on isolating a patient’s plasma for their blood and then injecting it back into the damaged area of the spine.

Platelets are a component of blood that are essential to immune response. They act as the first line of defense and are effective against pathological processes by:

  • Releasing 10 growth factors 
  • Attracting healing cells from the blood
  • Forming fibrin clots that regulate inflammation, thereby decreasing the aggressive inflammatory response

It is a form of regenerative medicine that triggers the release of natural growth factors to repair damaged tissue and replace dead cells. PRP takes about 45 minutes to complete. 

At CELLAXYS, we offer the best and safest cell-based and platelet-rich plasma therapy under the supervision of health professionals. To minimize the risk of complications, our procedures start with taking a detailed history and careful examination of your body and nerve functions. 

Each patient is counseled about which of the two procedures is more effective as an alternative treatment for spinal stenosis based on their individual diagnosis of severity and symptoms.

Dr. Pouya Mohajer

Director of Regenerative Interventional Spine Medicine
Board certification in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine
Fellowship-trained from Harvard University
UCLA Alumni

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