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What is Spinal Stenosis?
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by injury or degenerative conditions. The narrowing of the spinal canal puts pressure on nerves which can result in pain and neurological symptoms. Spinal stenosis can occur in any area of the spine. When significant narrowing of the spine is present, limb weakness, loss of bowel control and other neurological symptoms can develop. These symptoms are serious and possibly dangerous and usually call for surgical intervention. When dangerous symptoms are not present, non-surgical methods are often used for treatment. Only a doctor can reliably diagnose the seriousness of spinal stenosis. Non-surgical methods are not cures for spinal stenosis, but are instead used to relieve pain symptoms.
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The conventional treatments for pain relief caused by spinal stenosis are physical therapy, epidural steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications, narcotic pain relievers and surgery. Multiple non-surgical methods are often combined to achieve the most effective pain relief. All of the traditional therapies, besides physical therapy, have potential side effects.
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Acupuncture for Pain Relief
Acupuncture, which is considered a safe procedure when performed correctly, has shown to be effective for the relief of neck and back pain in some patients. A study conducted by Sheffield University in the United Kingdom concluded that acupuncture effectively relieved pain in patients. The pain relief benefits were long-lasting and greatly reduced or eliminated the need for medication. The patients in the study who were receiving acupuncture reported significantly higher pain relief effects than patients in the study who were receiving conventional treatment alone.
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As a Complementary Therapy
Researchers stress that acupuncture should not be viewed as an alternative to conventional treatments but rather as a complementary therapy. It is important to understand that acupuncture has only shown to relieve the pain associated with spinal stenosis and not other neurological problems. Acupuncture may not relieve pain for everyone and results may vary among patients. The only way to know if acupuncture will relieve a patient's pain is to undergo acupuncture treatments with a licensed acupuncturist. Spinal stenosis patients who undergo acupuncture treatments should still remain under the care of their physician.
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Learn More About Acupuncture
To learn what acupuncture is and how it works read, “Traditional Chinese Medicine: What is Acupuncture?” and read “Acupuncture for Back Pain” for an evaluation of scientific data as it pertains to the effectiveness of acupuncture in back pain relief.