What causes numbness, tingling and weakness in arms or legs? | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

If you have numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs, the issue may be in your neck

Ongoing numbness, tingling or weakness could mean a spinal compression in your neck.

If you commonly experience a sensation of numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs, there is a chance that issue may trace back to your neck.

Spinal cord compression is more common as we age. Weakness and sensory changes in the extremities is a giveaway that spinal cord compression may be happening in your neck (cervical spine).

Symptoms of cervical spinal cord compression, also known as cervical spondylitic myelopathy, can include weakness, deterioration of fine motor skills and trouble with coordination or balance, which can make walking difficult. These symptoms may be with or without pain and numbness.

Wear and tear along with age are the most common reasons for spinal cord compression, however it can develop more rapidly from other issues such as trauma or rheumatoid arthritis.

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A cervical disc is the soft tissue between vertebrae and typically degenerates over time. As a result, the vertebrae begin forming bone spurs, possibly placing more pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that branch out to the extremities. The pressure on the spinal cord can lead to symptoms far from the site of an injury. This can explain numbness, tingling and weakness in the arms and legs.

“Certain areas of the spinal cord and the exiting nerve roots can be traced to specific function of a particular body part. Providing clear information about where the patient is experiencing symptoms can help providers to pinpoint where the damage has occurred,” said Kimathi W. Doss, M.D., neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Diagnostic tests to identify cervical spondylitic myelopathy may include X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, (CT) myelogram scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Nonsurgical approaches may be pursued for mild cases of spinal narrowing. A soft cervical collar, for instance, limits neck movement and allows for recuperation. Physical therapy is another option that can help alleviate pain, rebuild strength and increase range of motion through multiple modalities. Medications may include anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers and oral steroids. Injections such as epidural, facet or trigger point, as well as radiofrequency ablations, also may help alleviate some of the symptoms.

Nonsurgical treatments can help symptoms, but may not lead to long-term relief.

Surgical procedures are regarded as the most effective method of relieving direct pressure on the spinal cord.


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