Cervical spinal stenosis

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What is cervical spinal stenosis?

Cervical stenosis is a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on the spinal canal and nerves in the neck. This squeezing can change how the spinal cord functions and cause stiffness, pain and numbness in the neck, arms and legs. In severe cases, cervical stenosis can cause major body weakness or even paralysis if the spinal cord is damaged.

How does cervical stenosis occur?

While some people are born with a small spinal canal, the most common cause of cervical stenosis is degenerative changes in the spine related to aging. Other causes include spinal instability, disc herniation, osteoporosis, tumors, accident, traumatic injury and constriction of blood supply to the spinal cord.

What are the symptoms?

Many people with cervical stenosis have no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they often start gradually and worsen over time. Common symptoms include:

Severe cases of cervical stenosis can cause paralysis if the spinal cord becomes too compressed.

How is cervical stenosis diagnosed?

In addition to a complete physical exam and patient history, your doctor can use specific tests, including X-ray, MRI and CT scan, to diagnose cervical stenosis.

What is the treatment?

In patients with mild cervical stenosis, non-surgical treatment is often effective. This includes activity modification, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids, epidural injections or physical therapy. If these conservative measures don’t work, surgery may be necessary. The goal of surgery is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.

There are several appropriate and successful surgical options, including:

The type of procedure performed depends on the severity of the cervical stenosis, as well as a patient’s overall health and other factors. Not everyone is a candidate for disc replacement surgery. A surgeon who is trained in both spine fusion techniques and disc replacement technology is the best person to determine the most appropriate surgical option for the patient. A consultation with the proper surgeon is crucial in making that determination.