Many spinal problems become worse with age. They may be the result of wear and tear over the years, osteoarthritis, or injury or trauma to the spine. Cervical stenosis is a fairly common cause of neck pain for patients over the age of 50. Symptoms may take a long time to develop, even though the changes to the spine may have been visible on x-rays or other imaging technology for some time.
What is cervical stenosis?
The condition is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck or upper spine. The narrowed space causes pressure on the spinal cord and nearby nerve roots. The irritation, inflammation, compression, and pinching can lead to significant pain, weakness, and other neurological symptoms.
Causes of cervical stenosis
- Bone spurs – These may develop in patients with arthritis and joint damage. The spurs can extend into the spinal canal, narrowing the space and compressing nerves.
- Herniated disc – Discs between the vertebrae may dry out and crack as a person ages. This allows the gel-like center to break through the outer layer. A bulging or herniated disc can compress nearby nerve roots.
- Spinal fractures – Compression fractures are also common among the elderly, especially post-menopausal women. Damage and inflammation from the fracture can narrow the spinal canal.
- Tumors and cysts – Growths along the spinal cord and vertebrae can cause a narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Congenital condition – Some people are born with a small spinal canal.
Symptoms of cervical stenosis
The diagnostic process includes a complete medical history of the patient along with a physical examination. The doctor will look for signs of muscle weakness, problems with balance, loss of reflexes, and loss of sensation. Diagnostic tests may include x-rays, CT scans, or an MRI of the cervical spine.
Conservative treatments include rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Surgical treatment may be necessary for patients who do not respond well to non-surgical techniques. The type of surgery depends on exactly what is causing the stenosis, but the goal is to decompress, widen, and relieve pressure on the spinal canal.
The neurosurgeons at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care are experienced in diagnosing and treating cervical spinal stenosis. If you are suffering from neck pain or other possible symptoms of cervical stenosis, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors. Following your diagnosis, they will discuss the best treatment options for your condition. Atlanta Brain and Spine Care has seven convenient locations.