Cervical spine refers to the neck portion of the spine, and cervical spine conditions may result from overuse injuries, trauma and certain diseases. Cervical stenosis refers to narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves. The condition causes neck pain radiating to arms and hands, numbness or weakness in the legs. This condition causes cervical myelopathy and cervical radiculopathy. The abnormal pressure placed on the spinal cord causes damage and results in spinal cord dysfunction. This condition is known as myelopathy. Cervical radiculopathy occurs when the nerve roots connecting the spinal cord are injured or pinched as they exit the spinal canal. Myeloradiculopathy occurs when there is damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots.
Cervical stenosis develops after age 50, because of aging and spinal wear and tear. Some patients have a history of back injury or trauma. Different disorders can cause nerve compression, such as:
- Thickening of spinal ligaments
- Osteophytes (bony overgrowths)
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Degenerative disc disease
Some people have no symptoms; they are asymptomatic. However, 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 needles sensation
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Rarely, loss of function (paraplegia)
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.
Cervical stenosis may be treated with conservative treatment approaches such as use of pain medications, physical therapy, steroid injections, or acupuncture. In chronic cases, surgery may be required to treat the condition. Surgery is considered for patients in whom the pain is not responding to conservative treatment.