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What is Cervical Stenosis?

Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves. 

Causes of Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis develops after age 50 because of aging and spinal wear and tear. Some patients have a history of back injury or trauma. Various disorders can cause nerve compression, such as:

  • Thickening of spinal ligaments 
  • Osteophytes (bony overgrowths)
  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc disease

Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis

You may not have any symptoms. However, if you do, the symptoms may gradually develop and worsen over time. The common symptom of cervical stenosis is mild to intense neck pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Problems with gait and balance
  • Clumsy hand coordination
  • Upper extremity pain and weakness
  • Numbness, tingling, pins and needle
  • Bladder and bowel problems 
  • Rarely, loss of function (paraplegia)

Impact of Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis can cause:

  • Cervical myelopathy: The abnormal pressure placed on the spinal cord causes damage and results in spinal cord dysfunction.
  • Cervical radiculopathy: Cervical radiculopathy occurs when the nerve roots connecting the spinal cord are injured or pinched as they exit the spinal canal. 
  • Myeloradiculopathy: Myeloradiculopathy occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots.

Diagnosis of Cervical Stenosis

Cervical spinal stenosis is usually diagnosed based on your medical history, a physical and neurological examination, and diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT or MRI scans, or myelography. 

Treatment of Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis may be treated with conservative treatment approaches such as the use of pain medications, physical therapy, steroid injections or acupuncture. 

In chronic cases, surgery may be required to treat the condition. Surgery is considered when the pain does not respond to conservative treatment.