What Is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?

Cervical spinal stenosis: Cervical spinal stenosis occurs when the vertebrae located in the neck — also known as the cervical spine — narrows significantly enough to compress the nerve roots of the spinal cord or the cord itself. This narrowing pressure can affect everything the spinal cord does, including moving, touch sensation, walking, and even controlling the bladder and bowels.

What Are the Causes of Cervical Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal cord trauma can cause stenosis but is usually due to the way the body changes as people age. Degenerative and rheumatoid arthritis, slipped or herniated discs, thickening ligaments, and cartilage loss are all common factors.

Symptoms of Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Symptoms usually come on gradually. Mild stenosis can have no symptoms at all, but those in more severe cases get progressively worse. Besides the obvious neck pain, patients can experience weakness or numbness in the extremities, trouble walking or staying balanced, and sometimes incontinence or bowel dysfunction.

Diagnosis and Testing

Neck pain and weakness is an indication of possible cervical spinal stenosis.

To confirm a diagnosis of cervical spinal stenosis, and must be confirmed with imaging tests that may include:

Other spine-related conditions such as multiple sclerosis must be ruled out by blood work.

Treatment of Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Mild stenosis can be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, posture improvement, and physical therapy. But more serious cases will require spinal surgery to relieve the compression.

Surgery may involve removing discs or bone spurs that may be compressing the spinal cord, or removal or restructuring of the bony arch at the back of the vertebra called the lamina. Parts of the spine may be fused to maintain stability.

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