Assessing Lower Back Spinal Stenosis: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Your Treatment

Spinal Stenosis Is Your Treatment Right Or Wrong: Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Did you have an MRI telling you that you have a disc herniation or spinal stenosis (pinching of the nerve)?

Is your chiropractor or physiotherapist treating you for spinal stenosis found on your MRI or X-ray?

Your chiropractor or physiotherapist might be treating the wrong thing.  A surprising number of chiropractors, physiotherapists and medical doctors believe the MRI and X-ray reports more than their findings. Most of them allow these reports to influence your treatments. You probably believe your health practitioner too especially when you can see the nerve being pinched on the MRI. Why wouldn’t you believe what you can see?

What you see is not always true for spinal stenosis.

What is stenosis? Stenosis is the abnormal narrowing of part of the body.[1] There are two types of stenosis as it relates to the lower back.

  • Lateral Stenosis

  • Spinal Stensois

Spinal Stenosis Is Your Treatment Right Or Wrong: Toronto Downtown Chiropractor

Lateral stenosis is the narrowing of the opening of the nerve that comes out from the spinal cord between two vertebrae.

Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the opening where the spinal cord sits from the brain right down to the bottom of your spine. If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, you have a narrowing of the opening where your spinal cord sits in the lower back.

So why can’t you always trust what you see on an MRI for Stenosis? Research shows that what you see on MRI  doesn’t relate to the examination by your health practitioner for stenosis.[1].

See Also: Is An MRI, CT scan or X-ray Best For My Pain

This means your chiropractor may diagnose you with spinal stenosis, and when you check your MRI you don’t have spinal stenosis. On the other hand, your physiotherapist might say to you that you don’t have a pinched nerve only to discover that you have spinal stenosis.

So who should you believe then? The health practitioner or the MRI.

Your health practitioner: they should correlate the findings of your MRI with their clinical examination. This still doesn’t guarantee results. Then your chiropractor should give you specific goals for your possible stenosis and then treat you for it. If it’s not working after 3-4 weeks then change the treatment for another possible diagnosis for another 3-4 weeks.

What Works For Spinal Stenosis?

Conservative treatment that works includes therapeutic exercises and combined epidural steroid injections which seem to have lasting effects for up to 3 years.[3] For those with severe stenosis, surgery is the most common and helpful for most people.

Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. This Toronto Downtown Chiropractor will do his best to answer all questions in the comments section.


1.  Haig AJ et al, Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation 2006; 87: 897-903.

2. Simotas AC, Dorey FJ, Hansraj KK, Cammisa F Jr. Nonoperative treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis. Clinical and outcome results and a 3-year survivorship analysis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). Jan 15 2000;25(2):197-203; discussions 203-4. [Medline].

3. Nonoperative treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis. Clinical and outcome results and a 3-year survivorship analysis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976).  2000; 25(2):197-203; discussions 203-4 (ISSN: 0362-2436)

Leave a Reply

  • Hi Dr. Ken, I’ve been told through a CT scan that I have: a broadbased disc bulging with mild retrolisthesis in L1/2 and with a mild canal stenosis, will light excerises help me or not. Also had lumbar fusion 2 years ago, have degenerative diesease, no cartilage between the joints, can someone like you help me and if so, who do you recommend for me to see someone in Melbourne, I live in Reservoir and also is there a cure for what I have! I sincerely thank you for taking the time to reply to my queries.

    • Post

      Thanks for your questions Josie. While you have a lot going in your MRI including the previous fusion surgery, you have to remember a fact. Most people have a lot going on in their MRI with no symptoms at all.
      Basically, in this article, I talk about the fact that most MRI results are not clinically relevant. In other words, they are not causing any symptoms. While you may have mild canal stenosis, it is very unlikely to be causing you pain. Now if I examined you I may change my mind and find that is the reason for your pain but until an examination and history correlate to your actual symptoms then that is the only time you will attribute MRI findings to pain. The problem is that in the world of MRI many health practitioners will diagnosis by MRI and not the other way around. This is an opinion and not a recommendation.

      Hope that helps your spinal stenosis.

  • HI There. I have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis. lumbar herniated disc, i keep getting several slipped disc, and scoliosis. I the cortozone shots use to work, but now they don’t, this doctor in dunville ont. said there is no cure, and that it is too late for any surgery, i am in and out of wheel chairs and can no longer live like this, there must be something that can be done. thankyou colleen dawson

img 9195 4 depositphotos bgremover
img 9195 4 depositphotos bgremover
Dr. Ken is an award-winning chiropractor in downtown Toronto, serving a diverse clientele. He is an avid athlete, representing Ontario in the Canadian Judo Championships, and has completed the Toronto Marathon twice. Dr. Ken specializes in in treating his patients using the C3 Program.