World Arthritis Day 2022 – Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Explained

It’s Bone and Joint Week (12-20 October), organised by the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), and this year’s theme is ‘Action on #MSKEquality’. World Arthritis Day (12 October) marks the start of Bone and Joint Week and this year, BCA Member and Chiropractor, Marc Sanders, explains what lumbar spinal stenosis is, why NHS treatment options are limited and how chiropractors can help.

What is lumbar spinal stenosis?

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a common spinal condition of the lower back that causes pain in the legs. It is caused by age-related arthritic narrowing (stenosis) in the spinal canal which presses on and irritates the nerve roots in the lower back. As well as pain, this can lead to a heaviness or weakness in the legs when walking, which can severely limit your walking distance, ability to stand and mobility, thus increasing disability and loss of independence.

Approximately three quarters of people over the age of 40 are expected to have moderate spinal tunnel narrowing. LSS affects about 11% of the general population but it is very uncommon under the age of 50. The prevalence of LSS is expected to increase dramatically due to a growing ageing population.

Why are treatment options for LSS limited within the NHS?

Internationally, there is unwarranted variation in care for people suffering from LSS. Whilst there are a variety of treatment options available for LSS, there is limited research evidence currently available to develop treatment pathways within the NHS and other international healthcare systems. This can lead to ‘inefficient use of healthcare resources and ultimately impact negatively on patient care and outcomes.’ The wide array of treatment options also makes it difficult for clinicians and patients to navigate and complicates decision-making.

How can chiropractors help to support patients with LSS?

Managing chronic spinal conditions often requires a package of personalised care based on an individual patient’s needs for treatment to be effective. Chiropractors can provide a non-surgical approach to treating and managing LSS for patients. This includes targeted manual therapy, tailored exercises, coaching around behavioural change, and self-management advice as per the treatments advised by the latest clinical guidelines in this area, not all of which (such as manual therapy) are available for patients on the NHS.

Chiropractors take the time to teach patients with mild to moderate LSS symptoms how to relieve pain and effectively self-manage their complaint in the long-term. Most patients will have a significant decrease in disability and reduction in pain within six weeks following the treatment protocol, which is provided by chiropractors and is sustained after three years, helping patients to avoid spinal injections and surgery.