What is Cervical Stenosis?
The cervical spine refers to the portion of the spine in the neck. Cervical stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves in the neck. The condition causes neck pain radiating to arms and hands and numbness or weakness in the legs.
Cervical stenosis can lead to cervical myelopathy and cervical radiculopathy. The abnormal pressure placed on the spinal cord can damage the spinal cord resulting in dysfunction. This condition is known as myelopathy. Cervical radiculopathy occurs when the nerve root connecting the spinal cord is injured or pinched as it exits the spinal canal. Myeloradiculopathy occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Causes of Cervical Stenosis
Cervical stenosis develops after the age of 50, because of aging and spinal wear and tear. Some patients have a history of back injury or trauma. Cervical stenosis and nerve compression can result from disorders such as:
- Thickening of spinal ligaments
- Bony overgrowth
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis
Some people have no symptoms; they are asymptomatic. However, the symptoms may gradually develop and worsen over time. The common symptom of cervical stenosis is mild to intense neck pain. Other symptoms include:
- Problems with gait and balance
- Clumsy hand coordination
- Upper extremity pain and weakness
- Numbness, tingling, pins and needles sensation
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Rarely, loss of function (paraplegia)
Diagnosis of Cervical Stenosis
Cervical spinal stenosis is usually diagnosed based on your medical history, physical and neurological examination, and diagnostic tests such as x-rays, CT or MRI scans, or myelography.
Cervical stenosis may be treated with conservative treatment approaches such as pain medications, physical therapy, steroid injections, or acupuncture. In chronic cases, surgery may be required to treat the condition. Surgery is considered for patients in whom the pain is not responding to conservative treatment.