Cervical stenosis occurs when injury or age leads to a narrowing of the space within the spinal column of vertebrae in the neck.
There are seven discs in your neck. These are called the cervical discs. Discs are doughnut-shaped, spongy cushions that fit between each vertebra to absorb shock and tie the vertebrae together to ease bending and twisting.
Discs are made of cartilage that holds a jellylike substance. If that jellylike substance oozes out of the disc, called herniation, it can cause stenosis, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Other causes of cervical stenosis include bone spurs on the vertebrae or overgrown ligaments in the spinal column. Facet joints in the back of the spine can degenerate with time or become enlarged from arthritis.
Cervical Stenosis Symptoms
Typically, cervical stenosis symptoms worsen over time, but can rapidly worsen after a long period of stability. Symptoms can include:
- Numbness or tingling in a shoulder or arm that may go down to your fingers
- Pain in a hand or arm
- Neck pain or numbness
- Deterioration of fine motor skills such as handwriting or buttoning a shirt
- Trouble with coordination and feeling off balance
Cervical myelopathy is a degenerative spinal cord injury linked to cervical stenosis.
Cervical Stenosis Treatment
With a combination of nonsurgical, surgical and innovative techniques, we can help relieve cervical stenosis symptoms. If the bone spurs are pressing on the spinal cord, surgery may relieve the pressure and prevent symptoms from worsening.
Treatment options include:
- Observation is recommended for minor cervical stenosis symptoms that aren’t getting worse or causing significant difficulties. Observation includes visits at regular intervals to ensure the condition isn’t progressing.
- Prescription medication can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy can improve symptoms.
- Injections can treat pain and reduce swelling.
- Severe cervical stenosis may be treated with surgery if the condition causes pain or weakness, or if it worsens.
- Surgical options include:
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
- Cervical disc replacement
- Posterior cervical decompression and/or fusion