What is Cervical Stenosis – Causes Symptoms and Treatment

Cervical stenosis (also called stenosis in the neck or stenosis of the neck) is basically the narrowing condition of the spinal canal in the neck.

In general, it is an age-related progressive degenerating condition in which the spinal canal narrows down and can squeeze (and even compress) the nerve roots where they leave the spinal cord.

In worse conditions, it may even compress down or damage the spinal cord itself.

What are the Causes?

Most of the time, stenosis in the neck occurs when something happens that reduces the amount of space available within the spine.

It has been seen that the soft cushions that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae tend to dry out with age.

And in this condition, even a small crack in the exterior of the disk may allow the escape of soft inner material, causing herniation of discs that compresses the cord.

This can also cause narrowing down of the spinal canal and hence stenosis and neck pain.

Another major cause of cervical spinal stenosis is bony overgrowth which occurs as a result of certain systemic illnesses like osteoarthritis and Paget’s disease.

Abnormal growth of tissues, as in the case of tumors that forms inside the cord and vertebrae, is another important cause to be noticed. Inborn defects (like in people born with a small spinal canal) can also be one of the major reasons for this problem.

The tough ligaments that help the bones of the spine become stiff and thickened over time. These thickened ligaments can bulge into the spinal canal, causing this disease.

Spinal injuries as a result of trauma or road traffic accident that results in fracture or dislocations of vertebra also can be a major cause of this problem.

Symptoms of Cervical Stenosis

Spinal stenosis neck and shoulder pain which may not be severe all time, is the main symptom of neck stenosis.

At times there may be intermittent shooting pains experienced in the arms and legs (along with headaches) like an electric shock.

Deterioration in fine motor skills, such as difficulty in handwriting or buttoning a shirt, is another major stenosis in neck symptoms seen.

Weakness or numbness in the shoulders, arms, and legs leading to clumsiness and dizziness is also sometimes experienced.

Disturbances in balance and gait along with burning & tingling sensations in extremities may also be there.

In severe cases, bladder and bowel incontinence, significant loss of function, or paraplegia occurs.

Differential Diagnosis and Diagnostic Tests

The differential diagnosis of stenosis in the neck includes many conditions, including congenital conditions such as Achondroplasia and Osteogenesis imperfect. Degenerative conditions like Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis are very common.

Inflammatory diseases might include Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine and Ankylosing spondylitis. Other metastatic conditions such as Breast cancer, Prostate cancer, etc., are included. Paget disease is also considered.

Various diagnostic tests to confirm neck stenosis may include:

  • CT scan and MRI of the spine
  • X-ray of the spine: Anteroposterior view, lateral, oblique, and swimmer’s lateral views
  • Nuclear medicine’s SPECT bone scintigraphy is valuable primarily in differentiating spondylosis, medical disease, infections, and tumors

Treatment Options and Home Remedies for Stenosis

Cervical stenosis treatment without surgery is always the best method recommended, which can be availed in the initial stages.

Most of the time, cervical stenosis with myleopathy can be successfully treated with non-operative treatment options such as exercises and anti-inflammatory medications.

Medications such as Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), Muscle relaxants, Antidepressants, Anti-seizures, and Opioids are prescribed according to the symptoms seen in the patient.

Some of the most common and effective cervical stenosis natural treatment options include:

Get Proper Rest:

Never give overstrain to the neck and rest properly for 2-3 days. This will promote faster healing of painful conditions.

Try Physical Therapy and Exercises:

It is also a good idea to get the help of a physiotherapist or a physical therapist.

He can advise you on the good ways of neck movement and neck strengthening exercises to help in easy recovery from neck pain.

Get The Best Tools:

If required, you can also try the traction devices at home to stop the pain caused due to whiplash, neck, and back injuries.

Products such as magnetic necklaces also help a lot in getting relief from the pain in the neck and back.

So you can try them out to provide the best care and comfort for faster relief.

Get Doctor’s Treatment:

If the pain exists after applying the ice and heat therapy, you should consult the doctor and follow the treatments strictly. The doctor will prescribe you painkillers and other over-the-counter pain medications for pain relief.

Based on your condition, he may also suggest taking a few anti-inflammatory medications for reducing the pain and for faster healing.

The medicines can have side effects. If you feel any problems after taking medicines do consult the doctor to discuss the issues. Follow all the treatments instructed by the doctor in a perfect way.

Visit Chiropractor:

Visiting the best chiropractor can also prove useful if you are suffering from long-term chronic neck pain after whiplash.

If required, he may advise getting natural treatment such as acupuncture, massage therapy, etc.

Based on the condition, he may also recommend you to wear a neck collar or a neck brace which will help you in treating the pain faster.

Besides the above treatment methods, some of the best home remedies for relieving stenosis in the neck may also include:

  • Diet and nutrition for losing excess weight
  • using supporters such as canes and walkers while walking to prevent falls
  • using pain relievers such as NSAIDs and
  • Limiting the use of alcohol and sedatives to improve the condition

When Is Surgery Required?

If you have been diagnosed with stenosis in the neck, above cervical stenosis, home treatment options may help you most in the initial stages.

However, if the problem is chronic or you have already tried out all the possible conservative treatment options, seeking surgical treatment is recommended.

If the above parameters don’t work, a surgical approach is needed. When all the non-surgical treatments fail to relive, and the patient has been in severe pain for a lengthy period, one can go for surgery recommended by the doctor.

As such, there is a number of surgical techniques that can be used to treat this condition.

In most cases, surgeons use decompression and stabilization cervical spinal stenosis surgery methods for the treatment.

The sole purpose of both is to widen the cervical spinal canal and relieve the compression on the cord.

Decompression Surgery:

During decompression surgical technique for cervical stenosis, the tissue that is pressing against a nerve is removed to make enough room for the foramen or spinal canal. The following types of surgeries can be performed by your surgeon for this:

  • Foraminotomy
  • Laminotomy
  • Laminectomy

Stabilization Surgery:

Stabilization surgery for cervical stenosis (also known as spinal fusion) is not required for all spinal stenosis cases. With this method, your surgeon helps in limiting the motion between vertebrae, thus providing long-term stability.

It is more helpful when one or more vertebrae have slipped out from their position, which makes the spine unstable and painful. It can be done alone or along with decompression surgeries.

Here, the surgeon creates an environment where the bones of the spine would fuse together over several months or longer by using a bone graft from the same body or a biological substance that will stimulate bone growth.

Spinal instrumentations such as wires, cables, screws, rods, plates, etc., which increase stability and help in the fusion of bones, are also used.

Overall, precautions are better than cures. So avoiding the traumatic causes can be best for you.

Early diagnosis and treatment can provide better management for stenosis in the neck and should be your first approach. However it is better to get the surgical help when symptoms turns severe.

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