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Cervical stenosis develops when either the spinal canal or nerve passageways (foramen) become narrow. It is a common cause of neck pain. If the spinal canal is narrowed, the disorder is also termed cervical central stenosis. If the foramen, or the lateral (side) corners of the spinal canal, is narrowed, it is called cervical foraminal stenosis. When either condition develops, the spinal cord and/or nerves are compressed. Sometimes, patients have both types of cervical stenosis.
Some patients are born with this narrowing (congenital). However, most cases of cervical stenosis develop in patients over age 50 and results from aging and wear and tear on the spine.
Many patients with cervical stenosis have a history of neck injury or trauma. Trauma may have occurred months or years before the onset of stenosis symptoms.
The symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis may include:
Our comprehensive diagnostic process includes:
Sagittal MRI (above) of a 50-year-old with cervical disc herniations (black protrusions) and cervical stenosis at 3 levels. This view is of the side of the neck with the patient looking left. The general narrowing is the stenosis. Note the compression of the spinal cord (white). This patient has neck and arm pain with numbness, weakness, and leg weakness with walking.
Many different nonsurgical treatments help relieve symptoms. These include:
In conjunction with these treatments, our staff will educate you about healthy posture and proper body mechanics.
If nonsurgical measures are not successful, surgery may be recommended.
There are different surgical techniques to treat cervical stenosis. The goal of surgery is to decompress, or take pressure off the spinal cord and nerve roots. Decompression involves removing or trimming whatever is causing compression. Your surgeon will discuss the best procedure for you, as well as explain the benefits and risks.
Cervical Spine Model with Cervical Plate
The procedures listed above are the most common. A different procedure not listed may be recommended by your surgeon.
Most patients begin to get out of bed the same day surgery is performed. Activity is gradually increased and patients are discharged home within a few days after their procedure, depending on the type and extent of the surgery. As with most surgeries, expect some pain after the procedure. Your doctor will provide pain medication to help keep you comfortable.
At home, you need to continue to rest. You are given instructions how to safely and gradually increase activity. Pain medications may be needed for a while. However, pain and discomfort should begin to reduce within a week or two after surgery. Information about other ways to reduce pain and increase flexibility is provided, along with instructions about your return to work and other activities.
In addition treatment, our medical professionals have a deep commitment to patient education. By helping you understand the cause of your condition, we can help you eliminate risk factors and instill spine healthy habits for a lifetime. While you are under our care, our medical staff will provide you with excellent information to help you recover, minimize risk factors, and stay healthy.