Non-surgical treatments for spinal stenosis

Dr. Weeks’ Comment:  For the past 30 years, since founding the American Apitherapy Society, I have been astonished at the myriad therapeutic benefits of bee venom in particular, as well as the other products of the honeybee hive in general (pollen, propolis, royal jelly and raw honey).  How can precisely placed bee stings relieve the structural problems which create the tight spaces in the spine called spinal stenosis?  Well, think of the biochemical response by the human body to a bee sting as a localized fever (hyperthermic) response leading to enhanced metabolism which, in turn, stimulates  bone remodeling.  Here are some articles describing bee venom and other modalities for spinal stenosis which might deflect the surgical knife.




Oriental treatment of spinal stenosis


By Lee Sung-hun

A patient in his 70s visited the clinic a couple of weeks ago. He had experienced shooting pains from the back to the legs while walking. Initially, resting for a short while helped a bit. But lately, the symptoms became more frequent, even during short walks, and the pain became more severe. The patient was worried that he had a herniated disc, and visited an orthopedic clinic where he was diagnosed as suffering from spinal stenosis. The doctor recommended a surgical option, but the patient wanted a non-surgical treatment, and hence he visited my Oriental clinic.

There is a space in vertebrae through which the spinal nerve cords pass, and it is called the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis is when this spinal canal narrows abnormally, which causes pain in the back and other multiple nerve-related symptoms in the leg.

Intervertebral discs that work as a shock-absorbers between adjacent vertebrae, consist of an outer annuls, which looks like a solid ring, and a more jelly-like inner nucleus that is made of 70-percent water. As we age, various tissues around the spine also age. The nucleus loses its moisture, hardens and thus becomes less effective in its shock-absorbing functions. In turn, that can cause stress to the spine even with activities and postures that seemed trivial in our younger days, which can cause degenerative changes, resulting in bone spurs. Along with that, changes in the joints and ligament tissues around the spine cause the spinal canal to narrow, which aggravates the nerve tissues into inflammation and causes other damage that can lead to multiple symptoms. Such changes most commonly occur in the lumbar vertebrae, and thus spinal stenosis generally refers to what happens in the lumbar region.

Spinal stenosis is an age-related disease, and it is usually seen in the patients in their 50s and 60s. However, recently, people in their 20s and 30s have become susceptible to it. It can be assumed that the aging process has accelerated due to the abnormal and continued stress on the spine caused by stooped postures that most of us unknowingly adopt when sitting in front of a computer for extended periods of time, or even when using smartphones.

Although spinal stenosis and a herniated disc share the fact that the nerves that reach to the legs are pressed, clinical symptoms are different for the two. For spinal stenosis, back pain is accompanied by weakness and numbing in the legs, and the calves may feel as if they are about to burst. Standing or walking for a long period can cause the radiating pain to worsen so much that the patient needs to rest before being able to walk again. It is because sitting down and leaning forward lessens the pressure on the nerves, while leaning back can cause more pain. In comparison, a herniated disc is more common with patients in their 20s to 40s, and the pain becomes more severe leaning forward than leaning back, and sitting down than standing up. With it, even sneezing or bowel movement can cause pain.

Non-surgical Oriental treatments seek to address the root cause of aging around the spine, and alleviate the inflammation on the nerve roots in the spine. Incorrect posture or bad habits can cause extra tension around the muscles and tendons in the spine, which accelerates the degenerative process. Chuna chiropractic adjusts the twisted spine, and acupuncture and cupping relieves the tension in the spine and pelvis. In doing so, the pain in the lumbar and pelvic areas can be directly relieved, and the pressure is lessened. Bee venom acupuncture is known to be effective in alleviating inflammation. As bee venom acupuncture is known to relive the inflammation caused by the pressured nerves and to strengthen the tendons, it is widely used for not only spinal stenosis, but also for herniated discs, arthritis and other ailments.

As evidenced by the fact that spinal stenosis occurs in younger patients, aging in our spinal systems can accelerate or decelerate depending on what we do with and for our body. Stooping forward while sitting down can cause extra stress to our spine. Therefore, it must be remembered that we should sit up straight. Strengthening the back muscles can relieve some of the weight load on our spine. Walking, slow jogging and swimming on a regular basis can be enough to strengthen the back muscles. We are living in an era when being 100 years old is very much a possibility. While financial planning for old age is important, health till that old age should also be thought out about at the same time and maintaining a healthy back should be part of that plan.

The writer practices Korean Oriental medicine at the UN Oriental Medical Clinic in Hannam-dong, Seoul. He can be reached at






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