Cervical spinal stenosis is a common spine condition affecting patients over 50. While a common ailment, many doctors will dismiss the symptoms as part of old age. However, depending on the cause, this condition can get worse over time. If untreated it can lead to serious health issues such as loss of bladder and bowel control and/or paralysis.
What Causes Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Cervical spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal inside the vertebrae that make up the neck (known as the cervical vertebrae), and it usually happens gradually as people get older. But in some cases, like those involving trauma, the condition can progress more rapidly. The danger is that as the spinal canal gets narrower, it starts to put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves that branch off to the parts of the body.
Arthritic inflammation in and around the vertebral joints (spondylitis) is the most common cause. In addition, the discs between our vertebrae wear out as people age (a condition known as degenerative disc disease or spondylosis) and as they do, they can also cause problems for the surrounding tissues in the spine and even slip out of place into the spinal canal themselves (herniated disc). Another common cause is bone spurs, which are bony growths that can start crowding the spinal cord over time.
When the spinal cord becomes compressed, the electrical signals that need to pass through the nerves can get disrupted. When this happens, it can cause pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and legs, as well as the loss of muscle control in the areas of the body these nerves travel to.
The most common symptoms of cervical stenosis are:
- Neck pain (though it’s not always present)
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands, legs, or feet
- Muscle weakness in the hands, legs, or feet
- Difficulty with fine hand movements
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How can Cervical Spinal Stenosis go Undiagnosed or Misdiagnosed?
Many of the symptoms of spinal stenosis appear gradually over time, making them difficult to notice. Because of this slow progression, symptoms are often brushed aside by both the patient and a general practitioner as a normal part of getting older. Because the symptoms that accompany stenosis are fairly vague, it takes an expert to identify this condition. Therefore, many diagnoses can misidentify other causes like arthritis, bulging or herniated discs, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. These are just a couple of reasons why it’s so important to see an orthopedic specialist. if you have symptoms like the ones listed above. why not see the very best doctors at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute
In addition, X-rays are the first diagnostic tool doctors use to determine what’s going on with the spine, but X-rays don’t always provide the facts in cases of stenosis. This occurs because X-ray imaging can only show issues with the bones of the spine, such as bone spurs, loss of bone height, or spondylolisthesis. They don’t give an accurate view of soft tissue like the spinal cord and nerves. For this, CT and MRI scans are needed.
Treatment for Cervical Spinal Stenosis
“For most of the patients we see with cervical spinal stenosis, nonsurgical treatments are very successful. More often than not, anti-inflammatory medications and targeted exercises are all they need to start getting relief from their symptoms.” – Dr. Richard Hostin
For most patients with cervical spinal stenosis, conservative nonsurgical treatment improves their condition. This starts by managing the pain with over-the-counter pain medications. When the pain becomes severe, doctors may use epidural steroid injections in and around any affected nerves as well.
After a brief period of rest, doctors will most likely recommend physical therapy and exercise as the first course of treatment. Exercises for cervical spinal stenosis are designed to strengthen the muscles that support the spine and to improve flexibility in your neck and upper back. They can also help by bringing the spine back into the proper alignment following an injury like a herniated disc.
Many of the exercises for cervical spinal stenosis are very simple and performed while seated.
“At Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute, our philosophy of care prioritizes minimally invasive options before considering traditional surgery. We’re specially trained and equipped to perform these kinds of procedures, and our patients get back to their daily routine faster as a result.” – Dr. Richard Hostin
If nonsurgical methods do not work to relieve pain and other symptoms, or if the pain begins to get worse, Drs. Hostin, Wiesman, and Kishan may suggest surgery. Surgical procedures to treat spinal stenosis are primarily designed to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, and thus, surgeons perform minimally invasive decompression surgery.
Minimally invasive surgery really helps. These procedures involve much smaller (3- to 15-millimeter) incisions with highly specialized surgical instruments with magnification. There are many benefits to using minimally invasive surgery and they are as follows:
- Less bleeding
- Less scarring,
- F\aster recovery time
- Less Pain
Plus, minimally invasive surgeries occur on an outpatient basis, meaning most patients will return home the same day as their surgery.
Getting an Evaluation and Treatment for Cervical Stenosis at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute
If you have any of the symptoms listed above and you think you may have cervical spinal stenosis, it’s important to see an orthopedic spine specialist like those at the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute, which has offices in Dallas, Plano, and Frisco, Texas. All of our orthopedic surgeons, Richard Hostin, MD, Devesh Ramnath, MD, Ishaq Syed, MD, Shyam Kishan, MD, and Kathryn Wiesman, MD, have expert experience in diagnosing and treating complex spine conditions like cervical spinal stenosis.
If you are in pain and think you suffer from cervical spinal stenosis, we can help. Call us to make an appointment at (214) 556-0555 or visit our contact page today.
Health Central: Cervical Stenosis
American Academy of Physical Medicine: Cervical Stenosis