Cervical Spinal Stenosis Treatment at Maimonides Spine Center in Brooklyn, NY
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Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces within the spine. Cervical stenosis specifically affects the neck (cervical spine), which includes seven vertebral segments starting at the base of the skull. Doctors refer to these segments as C1-C7.
Spinal stenosis is not limited to the cervical spine—it can also affect the upper middle-spine (thoracic spinal stenosis) and the lower spine (lumbar spinal stenosis).
It’s important to get cervical spinal stenosis diagnosed and treated early, as it can lead to other problems, including:
- Cervical myelopathy: Also called cervical spondylosis with myelopathy, cervical myelopathy can cause neck pain and stiffness; nerve pain; weakness or numbness in the hands, arms, legs, and feet; and, in more severe cases, trouble with fine motor skills (such as handwriting or buttoning a shirt). It develops when the spine become compressed from spinal degeneration, a herniated disc, bone spurs, swollen ligaments, or another issue.
- Cervical radiculopathy: Cervical spinal stenosis causes narrowing of the spinal canal, which lead to cervical radiculopathy, which is when a nerve becomes compressed and causes pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness that radiates down the arm and into the hands.
Cervical Stenosis Causes
There are several possible causes of cervical stenosis. These include:
- Arthritis: As the most common cause of cervical stenosis, arthritis occurs when the cushioning cartilage between the bones breaks down, leading to the growth of excess bone tissue. Sometimes arthritis causes the facet joints (which make the spine flexible and enable you to bend and twist) to degenerate and become enlarged, leaving less room in the spinal canal.
- Disc herniation: A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like inner portion of a cushioning disc between the vertebrae of the spine leaks out and irritates a nerve root.
- Degenerative disc disease: The discs between the vertebrae can lose hydration and crack, either from normal aging or from an injury; this can irritate a nearby nerve root.
- Injuries: An accident can cause fractures in the spine that lead to inflammation, reducing room in the spinal canal and leading to cervical stenosis.
- Tumors: If a cancerous growth touches the spinal cord, it can reduce room the in the spinal canal, leading to cervical stenosis.
- Cervical Stenosis Symptoms and Diagnosis
Symptoms can vary, depending on the root cause of the cervical stenosis, but can include:
- Neck pain or stiffness
- Weakness in the shoulders, elbows, and arms
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, hands, and fingers
- Loss of reflex function
- Reduced fine motor skills (e.g., typing, buttoning a shirt, putting a key in a door)
- Changes in walking (e.g., a feeling of heaviness in the legs, balance problems)
- Shooting nerve pain in the arms and legs (especially when bending forward)
To diagnose cervical stenosis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your family history. He or she may also order x-rays of your neck, which can help reveal bone changes that could be causing narrowing of your spinal canal; your doctor may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which can help reveal damage to your discs and ligaments, as well as any tumors.
Cervical Stenosis Treatment
Treatment for cervical spinal stenosis will depend on the root cause of the problem. Sometimes a combination of activity modification, physical therapy, application of ice and heat, spinal stenosis exercises, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen) are enough.
Some people may need epidural steroid injections (ESIs) to reduce inflammation. Others may need cervical spinal stenosis surgery, such as a cervical discectomy or cervical laminectomy. Your doctor will help you understand the root cause of your cervical stenosis and develop a tailored treatment plan for your needs.
Cervical Stenosis Specialists at Maimonides Medical Center
If you have cervical pain in your spine, don’t wait—see a spine specialist right away. Cervical stenosis and other neck problems can get worse over time and lead to other problems.
The expert spine specialists at Maimonides provide tailored treatment solutions for cervical stenosis at our state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn, NY. We work closely with patients to understand their needs and concerns and coordinate care with other specialists, including physical therapists, to develop customized treatment plans.