Cervical Spinal Stenosis
One of the most common causes of neck pain, especially in the older population,
is cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal
canal in the neck area or upper part of the spine. This narrowing causes
pressure on the spinal cord.
Most commonly, cervical stenosis occurs in patients over the age of 50
and is the result of aging and disc degeneration (wear and tear) on the
spine over a period of years. However, cervical spinal stenosis can also
develop due to genetics, development problems before birth, and poor body
posture. Some patients with cervical stenosis have a history of some type
of trauma to the neck, however this trauma may have occurred years before
and symptoms appear.
Many people over the age of 50 have some narrowing of the spinal canal
but do not have any symptoms. Cervical spinal stenosis does not cause
symptoms unless the nerves or spinal cord become squeezed.
Symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis may include:
- Neck pain (not always severe).
- Pain, weakness, or numbness in the shoulders, arms, and legs.
- Clumsiness in the hands
- Burning sensations or tingling and possibly pins & needle feelings
in the arms.
- Severe stenosis may cause bladder and bowel problems.
As with any condition, the diagnosis of cervical spinal stenosis begins
by obtaining your medical history. Because the symptoms of cervical spinal
stenosis are similar to those of other conditions, a qualified expert,
like those at SCCNS, should be consulted. Your symptoms will be reviewed
and discussed to determine how severe the symptoms are and what treatments
(if any) have already been tried. A physical examination by one of our
experts at SCCNS will be done to identify limitations of movement, problems
with balance, and any pain. If cervical stenosis is in question, an x-ray
may be ordered to rule out other problems. In addition, if necessary,
CT scans and MRIs may be ordered to determine if there are any bony growths
or herniated discs. Occasionally doctors us a
myelogram which involves injecting liquid contrast dye into the spinal column which
will allow the doctor to determine where the spinal cord pressure is occurring.