What Is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in your spine. This can put pressure on the nerves that run through these spaces, causing pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness in various parts of the body. Symptom location is dependent upon which nerve is impinged and which area of the body is served by that nerve.
Causes and Treatments
There are multiple causes of spinal stenosis. These include osteoarthritis, thickened ligaments, tumors and spinal injuries. Treatments vary depending on the cause of the stenosis as well as the severity of the symptoms it is causing. Common treatments include medications such as pain relievers, anti-depressants, anti-seizure drugs or opioids, steroid injections, or surgery. Many people with spinal stenosis who want to avoid becoming dependent on medication or undergoing surgery turn to more natural treatment options such as acupuncture. Acupuncture is proven to be an effective option for the treatment of spinal stenosis.
Acupuncture is proven effective.
A recent study published in 2018 compared the effectiveness of acupuncture, exercise, and medication in the treatment of spinal stenosis. Results showed that all methods resulted in a statistically significant improvement in symptoms as measured by the Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ). Those in the acupuncture treatment group, though, showed significantly better improvement in physical function by the end of the study as compared with the exercise group. Scores of treatment satisfaction were also statistically higher in the acupuncture group than in the medication group. Researchers concluded that acupuncture is significantly more effective than exercise in improving physical function, and significantly more effective than medication in patient satisfaction for the treatment of spinal stenosis. (6)
Another study published in 2016 assessed the effect of acupuncture on pain and quality of life in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. Researchers found that acupuncture yielded statistically significant improvements in pain and quality of life in patients immediately following treatment. In addition, six weeks after treatment participants reported continued symptom relief. Comparison of Short Form-36 Health Survey scores before and after acupuncture treatment showed significant improvements in emotions, vitality, general health, bodily pain, and physical well being. Researchers concluded that acupuncture has a significant short-term effect on pain and quality of life in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. (7)
How acupuncture works.
Acupuncture yields multiple biological responses, related to the stimulation of sensory neurons that connect to structures within the central nervous system. This leads to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery. Effects of this include a decrease in inflammation both generally and locally, as well as modulation of circulation in the area being treated. Acupuncture has also been shown to influence the release of naturally occurring pain relievers within the body, including endogenous opioids and endorphins. All of this results in a decrease in pain. (9)
Acupuncture's effects are also associated with stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Many people are familiar with the sympathetic nervous system, which controls our "fight or flight" response. The parasympathetic nervous system is paired with the sympathetic nervous system, and has the effect of clearing out stress hormones and re-allocating the body's resources towards digesting and healing. It is associated with improved activity of the immune system, as well as a greater sense of calm and well being. Acupuncture treatment has also been found to activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects that support general homeostasis.
To learn more about acupuncture and how it works, take a look at About Acupuncture or How Acupuncture Works. To learn more about the differences between Eastern and Western medicine, you can read About Eastern Medicine. To learn more about the Wisdom Traditions Acupuncture clinic, read About Us or Our Philosophy. If you have any additional questions, you can browse our FAQ or Contact Us. We're happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also Schedule an Appointment online.
Resources & related links.