Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces in your spine, can compress your spinal cord and nerve roots exiting each vertebra. Symptoms include back and/or neck pain, and numbness, tingling and weakness in your arms and legs.
As people age, the ligaments of the spine can thicken and harden (called calcification). Bones and joints may also enlarge, and bone spurs (called osteophytes) may form. Bulging or herniated discs are also common. Spondylolisthesis (the slipping of one vertebra onto another) also occurs and leads to compression.
When these conditions occur in the spinal area, they can cause the spinal canal to narrow, creating pressure on the spinal nerve. Although this narrowing itself does not always cause spinal stenosis symptoms. It is when inflammation of the nerves occurs at the level of increased pressure that patients begin to experience problems. In fact, some people have no signs or symptoms of spinal stenosis. Unfortunately, most individuals experience pain in the neck or back depending on where the narrowing occurs in the spine.
To slow the progression of spinal stenosis you first need limit the buildup of bone impinging the nerve and then address the inflammation contributing to the nerve pain.
A study published in the 2013 March-April medical journal Pain Physician found vitamin D deficiency was highly prevalent in Lumbar Spinal Stenosis patients (74.3%), and that severe pain was associated with higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.
This vitamin is essential for building and maintaining strong bones throughout life and is also important in modulating immune system activity and in controlling levels of inflammation and pain sensitivity. Without sufficient active vitamin D, the body is unable to use calcium properly. If not used for bone formation calcium can end up being deposited in arteries and soft tissues where it causes problems such as cardiovascular disease, and painful ligament calcification and Spinal Stenosis.
Your Vitamin D blood test level should be about 65. If the Vitamin D level is under 30 then you should be taking between 2,000 & 5,000 iu of Vitamin D per day. People with spinal stenosis should not eat dairy products and should not take calcium supplements without consulting their Practitioner.
Specifically for chronic pain magnesium can be helpful for offsetting the effects of calcium, which relaxes muscles and nerves. Magnesium acts like a plug for nerve receptors that are over-stimulated.
A study published in Nutrients June 2018 suggests “From a neurological standpoint, magnesium plays an essential role in nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. It also functions in a protective role against excessive excitation that can lead to neuronal cell death (excitotoxicity) and has been implicated in multiple neurological disorders.”
In 2006, researchers at the University of Southern California found low levels of magnesium were also associated with reductions in circulating vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH), both of which play a role in aiding the incorporation of calcium into bone. They also found magnesium deficiency stimulated the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines increasing pain.
A study published in the February 2015 journal Integrative Medicine reports, “Bone is composed of a hard outer shell and a spongy matrix of inner tissues and is a living substance. The entire skeleton is replaced every 7 to 10 years. During the skeleton’s remodeling, the body releases calcium from the bone into the bloodstream to meet an individual’s metabolic needs, allowing the bone to alter size and shape as it grows or repairs from injuries. This remodeling is regulated by osteoblasts—cells that build up the skeleton—and osteoclasts—cells that break down the skeleton. As long as the bone-forming activity (ie, absorption) is greater than the breakdown of bone (ie, resorption), the process of maintaining a healthy bone structure is maintained.”
Osteoblasts produce osteocalcin, which helps take calcium from the blood circulation and bind it to the bone matrix. In part, osteocalcin influences bone mineralization through its ability to bind to the mineral component of bone, hydroxyapatite, which in turn makes the skeleton stronger and less susceptible to fracture. The newly made osteocalcin, however, is inactive, and it needs vitamin K2 to become fully activated and bind calcium.
Nerve pain is often associated with a process called “pain central sensitization.” The nerves and brain are like wires that carry information. When they become over-stimulated with chronic pain, it may make the whole system over-excitable.
B12 & B6: For nerve function/repair sublingual B12 1000mcg and vitamin B6 100 mg is typically suggested. Sublingual Vitamin B12, methylcobalamin, is readily taken up by neurons wherein it promotes the rejuvenation of nerves, reduction of excitotoxic injury, and the reduction of pain. Vitamin B6 enhances B12 absorption and helps nerve repair by producing neurotransmitters for carrying signals between nerve cells. Do not exceed dosages without consulting a practitioner.
CBD: According to a study published in the June 2012, “Journal of Experimental Medicine”, researchers found that CBD significantly reduced chronic inflammation and pain administered to mice and rats. Researchers suggest CBD might counteract the hypersensitivity of cells surrounding nerves in people with chronic pain.
Curcumin/Turmeric: an active compound in turmeric, is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity that can promote healing. Like ginger, studies have found that turmeric may have pain-reducing power equal in some cases to that of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Skullcap (Scullcap) Herb: Skullcap normalizes the functions of the nervous system, soothing and relieving tension. It restores optimal function and structure of neurons. It also relieves or decreases muscle spasms in smooth or skeletal muscle.
GABA (gamma–Aminobutyric acid) an amino acid is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Its primary function is reducing nerve ending excitability throughout the nervous system. GABA receptors are located throughout the body and including the outer edge of the spinal cord and throughout parts of the brain. The nerve cells which are responsible for releasing GABA act as a “stop sign” for pain signaling in the spinal column. GABA supplementation activates healthy functioning receptors to increase utilization of GABA to decrease pain perception. The book Basic Neurochemistry: Molecular, Cellular and Medical Aspects by Richard W Olsen and Timothy M DeLorey supports this.
Their research found, “Electrophysiological data suggest that there are two GABA recognition sites per GABAA-receptor complex. An increase in the concentration of GABA results in an increase in the mean channel open time due to opening of doubly liganded receptor forms, which exhibit open states of long duration.” Professor Jin Mo Chung at the University of Texas Medical Branch has stated, “The preservation of GABA is a promising possibility for treating neuropathic pain and there are not many existing good treatment options for neuropathic pain.”
Serrapeptase: To reduce nerve scarring and buildup of tissue in the affected area of the spinal column Serrapeptase is an anti-fibrotic proteolytic enzyme which helps break down garbage connective tissue and reduces inflammation. Think of it like Pac Man gobbling up scar tissue and plaque. Typical dosage is 120,000 SPU per day and try to keep at least 1 hour before meals. I usually suggest taking just before bed.
As always consult with your practitioner before taking any supplements you are not familiar with.
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Jane Jansen Holistic Practitioner Tree of Life Wellness Center
Host Holistic Healthline Radio