Functional loss is a term used to describe the inability to carry out necessary activities of daily living such as bathing, getting dressed, getting out of bed, standing up, walking, using the bathroom, and eating. According to experts, spinal pain is a leading cause of functional loss, especially among older adults, often due to age-associated wear and tear that affects the various tissues in the lower back.
One particular condition, lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), is characterized by a narrowing of the holes that the spinal cord passes through, as well as the nerves that branch off from the spinal cord and travel to the head, arms, trunk, and legs. The terms “central” and “lateral” stenosis apply to the spinal cord space and the nerve root spaces, respectively. It’s important to note that the blood vessels that travel with these nervous system tissues, the neurovascular structures, can also become compressed. One study, which analyzed data from the Framingham Study cohort, found that nearly half (47.2%) of adults in their 60s have some degree of LSS.
In addition to symptoms associated with LLS like low back pain and stiffness, patients may also experience poor standing and walking tolerance, which is referred to as neurogenic claudication (NC). When NC is present, patients will also report that one or both legs feel heavy, tired, achy, crampy, numb, and/or weak. They may also experience impaired balance, which can be a real problem because falls can significantly affect a senior’s long-term health and ability to remain independent.
The good news is that the majority of these patients do quite well with non-surgical care such as chiropractic treatment. A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis LLS with NC reported that the current research supports an initial multi-modal, non-pharmacological treatment approach that includes patient education, rehabilitative exercises, and manual therapies—all of which can be provided by a doctor of chiropractic.