Cervical Stenosis (Spinal Stenosis)
What is cervical spinal stenosis?
Stenosis is narrowing of the cervical spinal canal. In severe cases, cervical spinal stenosis can cause compression of the spinal cord. This can result in injury to the spinal cord and if untreated can lead to permanent numbness, weakness, balance and gait problems, coordination issues, bowel and bladder control problems, and occasionally paralysis. This condition is referred to as cervical myelopathy, which significantly affects quality of life. Cervical stenosis can also cause pain in the upper extremities, called radiculopathy.
Cervical spinal stenosis typically affects people over the age of 50 but can certainly occur at earlier years. Professions that require repetitive neck motions can accelerate the condition. There is a small subset of the population who are born with a narrow spinal canal. This is referred to as congenital or primary cervical stenosis. Although this condition does not result in problems by itself, it does make the spinal cord and nerve roots more susceptible to acquired problems over time.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include neck pain, weakness, tingling, numbness and pain of the arms and hands. In addition to the upper extremities, the legs can be impacted in similar fashion, as well. When cervical stenosis results in nerve impingement, this can cause pain that travels from the neck into the arms. This condition is called radiculopathy. Untreated it can progress to permanent numbness and weakness in the affected area of the arm/hand.
What causes cervical spinal stenosis?
It can occur due to injury, herniated discs, bone spurs, arthritis, and old age. Typically, the process begins with disc degeneration which worsens over time.
- Wear and tear arthritis (osteoarthritis) causes bone spurs to form in the spinal canal narrowing the canal
- Intervertebral discs lose elasticity, flatten and bulge into the spinal canal
- Spinal ligaments thicken with age and can bulge into the spinal canal
- Tumors can compress the spinal cord
- Trauma can cause vertebral fractures and disk herniations, which can narrow the spinal canal and injure the spinal cord
Myelopathy (cord compression) and/or radiculopathy (nerve root compression) may be mild, moderate or severe. Treatment options depend on the location of the compression and your symptoms. Available treatment options are based on each patient’s needs.
How is cervical stenosis diagnosed?
Your Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine specialist will review your medical history, discuss your symptoms and conduct a physical and a comprehensive neurological examination. They will test your muscles, reflexes and assess your balance and gait. X-rays will reveal structural changes. An MRI will be ordered to evaluate your spinal cord, nerves and soft tissues.
Treatment options include nonsurgical management, physical therapy, spine injections and/or surgery. Contact Dallas Neurosurgical & Spine to schedule a consultation to receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.