In response to our recent post about the benefits of massage chairs for aching legs and feet, a client wrote us with a question about a source of very specific and troubling chronic pain: spinal stenosis.
For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the condition, lumbar spinal canal stenosis is a narrowing in the space in the lower spine that carries nerves to your legs. As they head for the lower extremities, nerves branch out through the lumbar vertebrae and sacrum. The passageways for these branches can be narrowed by injury, calcification, even normal wear and tear.
Herniated discs can also cause spinal stenosis as they add compression on nerves already squeezed at the narrowed canal. The discs which separate the vertebrae allow room for nerves to exit the spinal cord into the leg. Impingement of those nerves from whatever cause results in pain.
Those who suffer from stenosis typically have back pain most of the time, as well as leg pain, numbness, burning or weakness. It’s not fun.
Here’s what our client Ron had to say: “For the last year or so, I have had nearly constant burning and numbness in my feet (that sometimes travels all the way up my legs) and the aches and pains in my low back and hips. Sitting is some relief, but prolonged sitting also seems to make my symptoms worse. As a former athlete (forty years of soccer), I am used to an active lifestyle. Now even walking the dog on level ground is a challenge. My MRI showed that, in addition to some displacement of my L5 vertebrae, the nerves on either side of my spine were cramped as they passed through the openings in my spine and sacrum, which I understand is called spinal stenosis. Would a massage chair work for me, and which one do you think would be best?”
First, Get Professional Advice
Well, Ron, before you invest in any massage chair and start treatment, we recommend seeking guidance from your doctor or referred specialist. Your spine, after all, is nothing to trifle with, and you want to make sure any exercise or treatment is safe. The fact that you’ve had an MRI suggests that you are already on that path, and that is good news.
A Two-Pronged “Attack”
That said, research shows that a massage chair can provide comfort in two ways. First, a massage chair can loosen large back muscles that may be in spasm because of the nerve pressure. The deep, kneading motion of a chair can help relax tight muscles and thereby increase range of motion and flexibility while reducing pain. It can also increase blood flow to affected areas to assist the healing of any damaged muscle tissues. Ron had mentioned that the piriformis muscles in his hips were often tight. An L-Track massage chair would be ideal in helping those muscles to relax.
Second, the gentle stretching a massage chair can provide a bit of traction and thus open those narrowed pathways enough to bring some relief. Traction therapy is often prescribed for those suffering low back and leg pain. A massage chair can supply that traction in a gentle and safe manner.
For Ron, we would suggest a chair capable of more aggressive therapy like the Panasonic MA-73 or opens in a new windowMA-J7. Although if your problem areas are more lower body, the Positive Posture 4D Brio would be your best bet. As always, we invite your questions. We’re happy point you toward a particular chair and explain the advantages of each model.
Cannone, Jesse. “Massage Chair Therapy Of Course Aids With Degenerative Disc Back Pain.” LoseTheBackPain.com, The Healthy Back Institute, 25 Jan. 2013, losethebackpain.com/massage-chair-therapy/.
Schwartzburg, Rick. “Spinal Canal Stenosis of the Back.” Spinal Canal Stenosis of the Back, www.1backpain.com/backspinalcanalstenosis.htm.