Spinal stenosis occurs most frequently in the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) vertebrae. Usually afflicting people over the age of 50, the condition is a narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing may cause pain and stiffness.
The good news about cervical spinal stenosis is that it’s treated using conservative methodologies. While it can be painful, it can also be treated and managed with the right therapies. Most people with this condition live normal, active lives.
So, the question is, “Do you have cervical spinal stenosis?”. Read on and if any of what follows sounds familiar, visiting your doctor for medical imaging diagnostics and an examination is a right thing to do.
What Causes It?
Stenosis in the cervical spine is usually caused by arthritis. But other causes of the condition are disc degeneration and resulting herniations, injuries which have impacted the structures of your spine and tumors, which can cause stenosis if the spinal cord becomes implicated.
Paget’s disease, in which the bones become brittle and enlarged, causing nerve impingements and a narrowing of the spinal canal is another cause.
Common symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis are stiffness, pain and numbness. If you find it difficult to move your neck normally, it’s essential that you visit your doctor to rule out spinal stenosis and to identify any other potential conditions of the spine which are causing your symptoms.
Because we’re talking about your spine, it’s crucial that you’re proactive about seeking a diagnosis. While the most likely cause of the problem is natural aging and wear and tear, the pain you’re experiencing may also be caused by other conditions, so imaging tests, a physical examination and a discussion about your medical history are recommended.
X-rays can tell your doctor if there’s been any change to the structures of your cervical spine. MRIs can detect changes in soft tissue, revealing the presence of tumors, as well as damage to the ligaments and discs.
The CT scan covers all your bases. Using X-ray imaging and a dye which helps X-ray technology create a 3D image, your doctor gets a real-time picture of changes to your bones and soft tissue.
If imaging results indicate cervical spinal stenosis, your doctor will treat you with a variety of different therapies. Drug therapy may include over-the-counter pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication. Prescription medications employed may be muscle relaxants or anti-seizure drugs to control muscle spasms and nerve damage.
Corticosteroid injections, while helpful, are used sparingly due to the side effects involved. Blocking nerve activity using nerve blockers is another possible therapy to address cervical spinal stenosis.
Exercise and physical therapy are often prescribed by doctors to strengthen muscles and promote flexibility. While that may not sound desirable when you’re in pain, movement is known to have a healing effect. Neck bracing may also be prescribed as a means of resting the structures involved. Therapeutic responses depend on pain level and the condition’s progression.
If you believe you have cervical spinal stenosis, Central Texas Spine Institute invites you to contact us.