Explore Cervical Spinal Stenosis
There are two types of spinal stenosis – cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back). Cervical stenosis is a common cause of neck pain. It happens as there are changes with the vertebrae of the neck and the joints between those vertebrae. Bone spurs begin to form, causing cervical spinal stenosis. As the bone spurs grow, the spinal canal narrows and put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
Spine degeneration is the most common cause of cervical spinal stenosis. As the disk degenerates, it loses water content. So as we age, our disks dry out and weaken, which causes the disk space around our vertebrae to collapse. As this collapse takes place, weight and extra pressure is put on our joints behind the spinal cord and the tunnel that our spinal nerves exit through becomes smaller.
Patients with cervical stenosis can experience numbness, tingling or pain in the arms, hands and legs. They may experience spasms in their legs making it difficult to walk.
If you visit for your doctor with back pain, your doctor will start by taking your medical history and performing a thorough physical exam. Your doctor probably will request an x-ray or MRI scan. These tests can help the doctor confirm your diagnosis of cervical stenosis.
- Some nonsurgical treatment options for cervical stenosis include:
- Neck immobilization – reduce inflammation and discomfort
- Physical therapy
- Steroid injections – this can reduce swelling and give the spinal cord more room
For patients with cervical stenosis with myelopathy, the only effective treatment option is surgery to decompress the spinal cord. One type of this kind of surgery is a posterior cervical laminectomy. Myelopathy is a condition that progresses slowly, but symptoms from cervical stenosis with myelopathy usually do not improve without surgery. Surgery allows the surgeon to stop the progressive nature of the myelopathy and stabilize the patient’s neurological condition. Some patients may be a candidate for a minimally invasive surgery to decompress the spinal cord.