As we age, our spine, like most of our body, begins to suffer the effects of time and normal wear and tear. The cervical spine is the upper region of the spine, made up of a series of vertebrae back. The nerves along the spinal cord pass through the spinal canal and exit through small openings in the sides of the vertebrae known as the foramina.
As these openings begin to narrow, for a variety of reasons, they cause severe compression of the spinal cord and the surrounding nerves.
What is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Cervical spinal stenosis is the narrowing of both the spinal canal and openings at which the spinal nerves exit the spinal column – as a result of disc degeneration and arthritis issues. As these open spaces begin to narrow further and further, the tightness in the area can cause compression in the spinal cord, as well as its surrounding nerves. This causes pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and torso.
Causes of Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is often a result of aging, and age-related deterioration of the spine. In some rare instances however, some individuals are born with narrowed spinal canals. The main causes of spinal stenosis include:
- Arthritis in the Spine
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Herniated or bulging discs
- An Accident, Injury, or Trauma
- Complication of Prior Surgery
- Spinal Tumors
- Certain Bones Disorders or Infections
As a result of this narrowing in the cervical spine, the upper body and upper extremities are affected.
- Muscle spasms in neck and shoulders.
- Pain in the neck, shoulders (scapula), arms, and torso.
- Cervical Radiculopathy – Nerve compression by a disc herniation, pain, burning, tingling and numbness; on the shoulders, arms, neck, and hands.
- Muscle weakness.
- Cervical Myelopathy – Loss of motor skills in the hands, balance, and even bladder control in some cases.
The majority of spinal stenosis patients do not require surgical measures for treatment.
Non-Surgical Options include:
- Physical Therapy/Exercise – Inactivity can be a major issue with stenosis, and some targeted exercise plans can help patients to recover from their injuries. Also making changes to the way you walk or make certain movements can often help.
- Medication – Includes anti-inflammatory medication, epidural injections, and pain relievers (OTC & prescriptions).
- Epidural Injections
When the pain symptoms are more severe, and there is significant muscle weakness surgery may be necessary.
- Cervical Laminectomy – Used to help decompress the nerve pressure.
- Spinal Fusion – In some rare cases, stabilization surgery might be needed.
Depending on the specifics of your spinal stenosis, other treatment methods might be used as well, including the use of assistive devices. For more information about cervical spinal stenosis, other spinal issues or to schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Arutyunyan today.