Understanding stenosis in the neck region of the spine

Dealing with painful symptoms from stenosis in the neck, or cervical, region of the spine can affect your ability to perform everyday activities. Even once-basic things, like turning your head to check for oncoming traffic or finding a comfortable sleeping position, become difficult.

Stenosis in the neck involves the narrowing of the upper spinal column, often due to degenerative, age-related issues like arthritis or herniated discs. These conditions can cause the already tight pathways that the spinal cord and nerve roots have to travel through to become even more constricted. While it’s possible that this narrowing will never cause any pain, it increases the likelihood of a nerve compression, which can result in debilitating symptoms.

Getting a diagnosis

In order to develop a treatment plan that is right for your needs, you must first receive an accurate diagnosis. You should start by meeting with a primary care physician, who will evaluate how much range of motion you have in your neck, test your reflexes and check for areas of swelling or tenderness around the neck and upper back. You may also be asked if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in your neck or upper extremities:

  • Radiating or local pain, often described as burning
  • A tingling sensation
  • Muscle weakness or spasms
  • Numbness or a discernible reduction in sensation

Imaging tests, like an MRI, may be necessary to determine the exact location of your spinal stenosis. You may also be referred to a spine specialist if your primary care doctor is unable to provide a diagnosis.

Treating stenosis in the neck

Typically, stenosis in the neck is first treated with conservative methods. These can include hot and cold compresses, physical therapy, pain medication and light exercise and stretching. If stenosis in the neck is causing severe nerve compression and symptoms are not responding to conservative treatment, surgery may become an option.

Traditional open surgeries for spinal stenosis are highly invasive and can involve a long, sometimes painful rehabilitation. However, a less invasive approach to spine surgery has become possible. Laser Spine Institute, the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, offers procedures that are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^ Contact us today to learn more. And, ask about receiving a free MRI review* if you would like to find out whether you may be a candidate for our procedures.

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