Cervical stenosis is a condition in which the neck’s protective spinal canal narrows because of degeneration over time or because of injury or trauma. While everyone’s spinal canal narrows to some extent with age, cervical stenosis results when the canal narrows so much that it compresses the spinal cord.
The condition progressively worsens over time and can cause serious symptoms throughout the body since it affects the spinal cord, which is the body's nerve center. Cervical stenosis frequently presents with myelopathy, a condition that causes neurological issues, such as loss of coordination.
Signs and Symptoms
Any condition or injury of the spine that narrows the spinal canal enough to compress the spinal cord can cause cervical stenosis. This includes bone spurs, herniated discs, or swollen ligaments in the neck area.
Symptoms of cervical stenosis, especially with myelopathy, worsen over time. Early symptoms may include:
- Changes in arm coordination
- Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
- Problems with balance
Often, these early symptoms are ignored because they’re subtle, but if they continue for a long period of time, it's best to see a doctor. Left untreated, the spinal cord can become more compressed, resulting in more serious issues, such as paralysis.
Seek medical care as soon as possible if the following symptoms become more noticeable:
- Weakness or numbness in the hands that makes it difficult to grip
- Difficulty with everyday activities, such as typing, writing, or buttoning a shirt
- Balance problems and difficulty walking
- Neck pain or stiffness with reduced range of motion and possible grinding noise
- Shooting pains like electric shock in the neck, arms, and/or legs
Diagnosis and Treatment
The spine specialists at the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center can diagnose cervical stenosis using imaging technology, such as an MRI. Caught early, they’ll treat the condition with nonsurgical treatments like pain medication, modified activity, and physical therapy.
Unfortunately, once symptoms progress to myelopathy and become moderate to severe, surgery is necessary to decompress the spinal cord and avoid serious nerve damage. Our Spine Center specialists can successfully relieve the compression of the spinal cord through one of two surgical methods:
- Anterior cervical decompression and fusion, which removes any herniated discs, bone spurs, or swollen ligaments compressing the spinal cord from the front, and fuses portions of the cervical spine for stability
- Posterior cervical decompression, which removes or reconstructs the bony arch at the back of the vertebrae from the back, to release pressure on the spinal cord
If you're experiencing the early symptoms of cervical stenosis, it's crucial to see a spine specialist as soon as possible to find out if nonsurgical treatment can avoid further damage. At the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center in Houston, our team of experts can diagnose your level of stenosis, provide nonsurgical treatment options, and deliver top-quality surgical care, if needed. Contact us today for an appointment.