Is Spinal Stenosis Causing Your Pain?

By Sara Butler

Your chiropractor is kind of a like a detective -- a pain detective! They may not be a modern-day Sherlock Holmes but they are trained to look for the underlying causes of pain you may be experiencing and treat the cause, not just the symptoms. If you suffer from back pain you may be under the impression that the problem lies with your back, but sometimes that’s just not the case. You may not have a back problem at all, but actually a medical issue that doesn’t start in your back. So, never dismiss back pain as simply a problem with your back, especially as you age. Here’s what you need to know!

The Usual Suspect: Spinal Stenosis

A common side effect of the aging process is something called spinal stenosis. This is when the canal that houses your spinal cord in your spine narrows and can result in pressure being put on the spinal cord which can lead to pain. Spinal stenosis is incredibly common and the cause of a lot of back pain in older people. The most common symptoms of spinal stenosis are:

  • Cramping in the legs
  • Pain the lower back
  • A feeling of heaviness in the legs
  • Symptoms made worse by activity
  • Increased pain when walking downhill

The problem with just writing off these symptoms as spinal stenosis is that some people also have peripheral artery disease, so having a physical exam and other tests done by a medical professional is important.

When It’s a Different Medical Problem

So how can you tell the difference between spinal stenosis and a more serious condition? Here are a few of the differences:

  • Pain that increases when you go uphill – This is common with peripheral artery disease since there is a buildup of arterial plaque in your blood vessels leading to your limbs.
  • Symptoms that get worse at night but better with exercise – Neuropathy is often characterized by these two things.
  • Morning stiffness that lasts longer than 30 minutes – This may indicate inflammatory arthritis.

If You Do Have Spinal Stenosis

If other things have been ruled out and you do suffer from spinal stenosis your chiropractor can help you to come up with a plan of attack to help manage your pain. They may recommend physical therapy that emphasizes strengthening and stretching to help support your spine and improve your balance.

Of course, if you ever have any questions or concerns about the pain you are experiencing in your back, make sure to speak with your chiropractor about it.

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