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.
The treatment of cervical spinal stenosis usually begins conservatively and may include physical therapy exercises to strengthen the back and neck, stretching and rest. Over-the-counter pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs may be helpful however for more severe cases, prescription medications or treatment by a steroid injection from one of our expert pain management doctors may be prescribed.
If non-surgical treatments fail, surgical decompression may be recommended in order to relieve pressure. The goal with a decompression surgery is to widen the spinal canal and relieve the pressure on the spinal cord by removing or trimming whatever is causing the compression. At SCCNS, we offer the most minimally invasive surgical procedure that will best benefit our patients with fewer side effects, higher success rates and minimal recovery time.
As each patient is different, as are their conditions, we treat each patient on a case by case basis and each type of procedure will be discussed and the patient educated so that they will understand which option is best for them.