When a patient experiences a narrowing of the spinal canal around the cervical section of the spine, a condition known as cervical spinal stenosis can result. Most commonly the condition occurs due to natural aging and a deterioration of the intervertebral disc and accompanying joints. Arthritis is one common culprit as it makes facet joints expand and pushes away nerve roots. Then, as the disc continues to deteriorate the condition worsens as the load on the vertebrae shifts and puts undue stress on the facet joints. The result is inflamed and enlarged joints and ligaments as well as the advent of bone spurs, all of which causes irritation to the nerves.
Many of the most common symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis occur with other conditions found in the spine: pain, occasionally in the neck and back but more certainly in the arms and legs (known as “referred” pain.) Additionally, a lack of sensation or over-sensitivity can indicate the condition is present, as can aching and burning pain down the legs. Sufferers may also experience a weakness in the extremities as nerve pressure progresses, weakness that can present itself in the inability to grip or the dragging of one or both feet.
Once diagnosed through physical exams and CT or MRI imaging, there are several treatments for cervical spinal stenosis. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, steroidal injections and devices to promote lumbar stabilization may be all that is required. Surgical treatments may include procedures to alleviate the compression of the affected area and removal of a damaged disc. However, it’s important to speak with a physician about the condition and begin some sort of treatment regimen in order to prevent a progression of the condition.