Spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal which can occur a couple ways. Two vertebrae can compress a disc so much that the disc bulges into the spinal canal and presses on the spinal cord. Another reason spinal stenosis may occur is if there is thickening of the bones themselves, resulting in a smaller cavity for the spinal cord to pass and often leads to compression of the spinal cord. This can impact blood flow, cause pain, restrict mobility and impede nerve function.
Reduced blood flow is believed to be responsible for much of the pain and paresthesia associated with this condition. Dr. Budgell's research is making significant progress in the restoration of blood flow in patients with spinal stenosis. Preliminary research with electronic stimulation has shown to return blood flow to pre-compression levels and maintain those levels for the duration of the test. The stimulation consists of electrical impulses that range from four to one hundred times per second although more study will allow for further definition of this range.
The demand for new therapies couldn't be greater. Thousands of Canadians are currently on lengthy wait lists for spinal surgery, with many of those patients suffering from spinal stenosis. There are many more people with this disease who are advised that there is nothing that can be done to alleviate the pain and discomfort that accompanies the condition. Some patients have found relief with conservative treatments, however, it seems that not one treatment is the solution to all cases. Further complicating the issue is that the condition is common in the 60+ age category which happens to be the fastest growing segment of the nation's population.
The goal of this research is two fold: First and foremost, a clinical application can help patients manage the disease and also demonstrate that the treatment is effective. Secondly, continued research can help us further understand the exact mechanisms and triggers for spinal stenosis which may lead to more improved treatments or even prevention protocols.