If displaced bone or soft tissue causes the spinal cord or nerve root passageways in the upper portion of the spine to become constricted, a patient is said to suffer from cervical spinal stenosis. In many cases, spinal narrowing in the upper (cervical) section of the spinal column arises because of an obstruction like a bone spur or a damaged intervertebral disc. Spinal stenosis can be a disorder that was present at birth (some individuals are born with a naturally narrow spinal column), though it is most commonly a result of aging and wear and tear to the spine.
If the spinal cord becomes constricted, the results can affect the entire body. Symptoms of spinal cord compression in the cervical area of the spine include:
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness in the upper and lower extremities
- Spasticity in the legs and difficulty walking
If nerve roots are constricted by cervical spinal stenosis, the symptoms may be slightly different:
- Neck pain
- Pain that radiates down the shoulders and arms
- Numbness, tingling and weakness in the shoulders and arms
- Headaches and loss of balance
Individuals who experience the above symptoms should make an appointment with a physician to get a proper diagnosis, as the symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis are often similar to those of other neck and back problems. During the diagnostic process, a physical examination will be performed and is usually accompanied by an X-ray, CT scan or MRI.
Treatment for cervical spinal stenosis is similar to that of other spinal stenosis treatments, and usually begins conservatively with exercises to strengthen the neck and back, gentle stretching and rest. Some patients find relief through over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs, however many sufferers try prescription medications or steroid injections, depending on the severity of the pain.
When debilitating neck and back pain persists and conservative treatments fail to provide relief, surgery might be another option. There are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures available at Laser Spine Institute, offering the benefits of higher success rates, fewer side effects and shorter recovery times compared to traditional open back surgeries. The orthopedic experts at Laser Spine Institute perform effective minimally invasive procedures that can have patients on their feet in a few hours. Many patients find that they are fully recovered in a matter of weeks.
To learn more about how Laser Spine Institute can help you reclaim the more active life you were meant to live, contact us today to receive a free initial consultation.