Stenosis in the neck region of the spine — getting the facts

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. Most cases of narrowing in the upper spinal column are 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 becomes a lot more likely that nerves can become compressed, resulting 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. Your physician 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, like an MRI or CT scan, may be necessary to determine the exact location of your spinal stenosis. After diagnosis, the first step in treatment is generally a doctor-prescribed course of conservative, nonsurgical treatments. These initial treatments for stenosis in the neck may include physical therapy, stretching exercises, over-the-counter medications, hot/cold compresses and lifestyle changes.

Surgery for spinal stenosis in the neck

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 more minimally invasive approach to spine surgery has become possible.

If stenosis in the neck is causing severe nerve compression and symptoms are not responding to conservative treatment, elective surgery may become an option. Open spine surgeries for spinal stenosis are often recommended but are highly invasive and can involve a lengthy and arduous rehabilitation. However, minimally invasive procedures with shorter recovery times^ are available. To learn more about minimally invasive, outpatient surgery for degenerative conditions like stenosis of the neck and back, and to find out if you are a candidate for this type of spinal stenosis treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost review* of your MRI.

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