Spinal stenosis in the neck — causes and treatments

Spinal stenosis in the neck occurs when the spinal canal or a nerve root exit in the cervical (upper) region of the spine becomes narrowed. Spinal stenosis does not necessarily cause symptoms and is part of the natural aging process for most people. It is only when the narrowing occurs to the point that the spinal cord or a nerve root becomes compressed that pain and other problems are experienced. When spinal stenosis in the neck leads to nerve compression, the symptoms can include pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness. In addition to local pain in the neck, these symptoms can also extend to the arms and hands.

Causes of cervical spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis in the neck can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common is age-related degeneration that can lead to the misalignment, inflammation or damage to parts of the spine. The spinal discs, vertebrae, ligaments and muscles surrounding the spine are all prone to deterioration as we age, leading to the potential development of a degenerative spinal condition. A number of these conditions can lead to narrowing of the cervical spinal canal, including:

  • Herniated discs
  • Bulging discs
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Degenerative disc disease

More rare causes of spinal stenosis can include the presence of a tumor, or being born with a naturally narrow spinal canal.


Upon diagnosis by a medical professional, the symptoms of spinal stenosis in the neck can often be managed through a course of conservative, nonsurgical treatments. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, the application of cold compresses and heating pads and epidural steroid injections all can be effective. Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or improving posture may also be recommended.

However, some patients may not find relief after pursuing conservative treatments, even after several weeks or months, and may start to consider surgery. Before electing to undergo a highly invasive traditional open spine procedure, reach out to Laser Spine Institute to learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery. Our outpatient procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice, providing many advantages when compared to traditional procedures, including no lengthy recovery.^

Contact our caring and dedicated team today for a no-cost review of your recent MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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