Spine Surgery

August 22, 2022

Signs You May Be Dealing with Cervical Stenosis


Cervical stenosis is a spine issue that can cause tingling, weakness, or numbness in your extremities, along with other symptoms—such as trouble walking or balancing—in more severe cases.

What is Cervical Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can cause pressure on the nerves found there. Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal in your neck, where the cervical vertebrae protect your spinal cord.

What Causes Cervical Stenosis?

Stenosis is most commonly caused by wear-and-tear changes in the spine related to aging and osteoarthritis. Other causes of cervical stenosis may include:

  • Overgrowth of bone. Osteoarthritis can cause bone spurs that grow into the spinal canal. Paget’s disease, which is a bone disease that usually affects adults, can also cause bone overgrowth in the spine.
  • Herniated discs. Discs are soft cushions in your spine that act as shock absorbers between your vertebrae. They dry out with age, and cracks in the outer layer of the disc may allow some of the material within to escape and press on the spinal cord or nerves.
  • Thickened ligaments. The ligaments that hold your vertebrae together can become stiff and thicken. This can cause spinal bulging, a condition in which the ligaments bulge into the spinal canal.
  • Tumors. Abnormal growths can form inside the spinal cord within the membranes covering the spinal cord or in the space between the spinal cord and vertebrae.
  • Spinal injuries. Injuries to the spine can result from car accidents, falls, or other trauma. One or more bones may be fractured or dislocated, and displaced bone can damage the contents of the spinal canal.
  • Congenital deformities. Congenital spinal stenosis is a genetic abnormality in which some people are born with a small spinal canal. Scoliosis can also cause stenosis.

Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis

If none of the nerves in your neck are compressed, you may not experience any symptoms of cervical stenosis. You might see evidence of cervical stenosis on an MRI or CT scan, for example, but symptoms may not appear until later.

Symptoms of cervical stenosis include:

  • Neck pain
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in a hand, arm, foot, or leg
  • Problems with walking and balance
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction, such as incontinence

Symptoms of cervical stenosis typically occur gradually and worsen over time. In rare cases, untreated severe stenosis may advance and result in permanent numbness, weakness, balance problems, incontinence, or paralysis.

How is Cervical Stenosis Treated?

Treatment for cervical stenosis depends largely on the cause, but the universal goal is for you to experience the least amount of pain with the most significant degree of mobility possible.

Conservative Treatment Options for Cervical Stenosis

Non-invasive treatment options for cervical stenosis include physical therapy and taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. Another common treatment strategy is corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation.

Assistive devices can also be used as treatments for cervical stenosis. For example, your doctor may recommend an injection of a local anesthetic to temporarily numb the area around the spinal cord so that a neck brace or other device can be used to reduce pressure on the affected area.

Surgical Options for Cervical Stenosis

Decompression surgery is an option for cervical stenosis that persists after other treatments have failed. Decompression procedures include laminectomy, which removes pieces of bone on the vertebrae, and discectomy, which removes one or more damaged discs.

Depending on the severity of the issue, the location of the affected area, and other factors such as your overall health, decompression surgery may be able to be performed with minimally invasive techniques. Your doctor will advise you on which options are right for you.

When Should I See a Doctor for Cervical Stenosis?

If you are experiencing the symptoms of cervical stenosis listed above, speak with one of the surgeons at Arkansas Surgical Hospital. They can evaluate your situation, recommend a treatment plan, and answer any questions you may have. Request an appointment online or call (501) 748-8000 to request a consultation with one of our experts.

Photo by Kindel Media

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