Exercise 'boot camp' offers non-surgical treatment for spinal stenosis
Published Tuesday, April 21, 2015 9:09AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 21, 2015 2:05PM EDT
A Toronto-based doctor has created a series of targeted exercises aimed at improving the quality of life for patients suffering from spinal stenosis, a painful condition affecting parts of the spine. The exercises offer patients a non-surgical treatment option.
Spinal stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of various regions of the spinal canal. This narrowing puts pressure on the nerves, which can result in painful symptoms.
Symptoms of spinal stenosis include pain, numbness, tingling and a loss of motor control. The condition can develop as people age, with the symptoms becoming progressively worse over time. It is estimated that between six to eight per cent of Canadians suffer from spinal stenosis.
Dr. Carlo Ammendolia, a chiropractor and associate scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has designed a specialized six-week "lumbar boot camp" exercise program for spinal stenosis patients.
He said the pain associated with the condition can be very serious.
"It impacts people's ability to walk, to stand and to function," he told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday. "There are a number of medications that can be used, but none of them have been shown to be effective right now."
Ammendolia's boot camp uses exercise to treat patients' symptoms, rather than drugs or surgery.
During the boot camp, patients exercise twice a day, strengthening their muscles and core, Ammendolia said.
He said the program also teaches patients how to re-align their spine in a way that will make their narrowed canals larger.
"Patients with stenosis tend to lean over," he said, noting that leaning forward ultimately opens up the spinal canals.
"Instead of bending forward, we're teaching our patients to pull the spine upwards when they stand and they walk. In fact, we're teaching our students to stand and walk in a completely different way to maximize those openings in the spine."
He said his clinic is also testing manual therapy, and a spinal stenosis belt, which artificially changes the alignment of the spine.
Lillyann Goldstein is a spinal stenosis patient who has gone through Ammendolia's boot camp. She said the exercises and stretches she's learned have "changed her life."
When she first started experiencing symptoms she said she sought various treatments including topical creams, acupuncture and medications, but nothing seemed to work.
"I had difficulty getting into bed, turning in bed. I'm a very active individual and the pain became more and more debilitating," she said. "I knew I couldn't continue that way and the only other option for me was surgery, which I really was not looking forward to."
Goldstein said, once she started working with Ammendolia, the pain began to subside and she was able to resume her daily activities.
"I was able to function as a normal individual again," she said.
Ammendolia's exercises are now being tested in clinical trials.