What is cervical stenosis ?
Cervical stenosis is a condition that occurs when the canal of the upper portion of the spine narrows. The spinal canal is the open area in the spinal column. The cervical spine consists of the seven spinal columns between the head and the chest. When the spinal canal narrows, the spinal cord (collection of nerves in the spinal column) is compressed, thereby producing the signs and symptoms.
Cervical stenosis symptoms
The cervical spinal stenosis symptoms may or may not be felt. This depends upon the severity of the compression of the nerves. If the nerves are not tightly compressed, the symptoms may not appear. Following are the symptoms produced due to cervical stenosis :
- Leg Spasticity
Spasticity is the term used to indicate the loss of control over the muscles that leads to abnormal spasms. Leg spasticity can lead to walking difficulties, balance and coordination troubles, and frequent stumbling. The person may also experience increased reflexes in the legs.
- Pain in the upper extremities
The pain associated with cervical spinal stenosis starts on the neck then radiates to the shoulders and arms. The pain experienced may be continuous or intermittent. It is usually characterized as dull pain but it may range from mild to severe according to the status of the inflammation. The higher the amount of inflammation, the more pain it will cause.
The pain in the arms and shoulders may cause the person to drop objects frequently. Patients may also have difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing or typing.
The tingling or “pins and needles” sensation is caused by the interference in the transmission of nerve signals. Tingling sensations in the legs can cause difficulty in walking or even standing up.
- Muscle Movements are affected
When the two lowest parts of the cervical spine are affected, the upper body is particularly affected. The person affected with cervical stenosis may struggle with bending the fingers, turning up the palms and straightening the arms.
The severe form of cervical stenosis has the following symptoms:
- Bladder and Bowel Incontinence
If the person with cervical stenosis cannot control his or her bowel movements voluntarily, the autonomic nerves may be already damaged. The bowel and bladder cannot conduct impulses, leading to incontinence.
- Foot Drop
Foot drop accompanied with cervical stenosis is a sign of cauda equina. Cauda equina is the compression of the nerve roots in the spinal column. If this is not treated properly, it may cause permanent damage.
Once you noticed the severe symptoms, make sure that you head to the nearest emergency room as these symptoms require immediate attention from the healthcare providers.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis Treatment
- Proper posture
This is the cheapest way of correcting this condition. You need to keep correct alignment of the spine. You need to adjust your sitting and standing habits to correctly align the spine. You also need to practice proper body mechanics when lifting a heavy object or picking up something from the floor.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
You need to be on a normal body mass index. Your body weight should be in accordance with your height. You do not need to add burden to your spine by carrying excess weight.
You should also avoid smoking. Smoking contains chemicals that are toxic to your body.
Anti-inflammatory drugs- Take anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammation in your spine. The inflammation compresses the already compressed nerves.
Analgesics- Analgesics are taken to minimize the pain experienced by a person with cervical stenosis.
Cervical stenosis exercises
- Isometric exercises
This type of exercise is perfect for patients suffering from cervical stenosis because it does not force too much movement but it allows the neck muscles to exert. It increases muscle strength in the neck.
- Cardio exercises
Cardio exercises are done to increase the blood circulation in the body. There is a higher chance of increasing the blood circulation in the spine. Examples of cardio exercises are stationary bike, jogging, and aerobics.
The problem with stenosis is the diminishing flexibility. Stretching is designed to bring back the flexibility of the spine. Make sure that stretching is done daily continuously.
Cervical stenosis surgery
Some of the surgical options are :
This procedure is done by removing the lamina. The ligaments that have thickened will be removed. The nerve roots will be given more space to exit the spinal canal by cutting some portion of the facet joints.
- Interspinous Process Distraction
A spacer is placed between the bony protrusions in the spine. This allows the spine to mimic a sitting position posture. This relieves the pressure and compression on the nerves. This spacer is not connected to the bone or the ligaments itself.
- Spinal fusion
This is done by joining two vertebras together. The fusion will give your spinal column stability. Spinal fusion is usually done in conjunction with laminectomy. A bone graft will replace the removed lamina. In a few months, the bone graft will slowly fuse with the vertebrae.
Cervical stenosis is a serious condition and is very important to consult a doctor when you have the first symptoms of pain.
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Filed under: Spinal Stenosis