Symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal around the bones of the spine making up the neck) can range from non-existent to debilitating. Regardless of the level of discomfort, however, knowing the symptoms associated with cervical spinal stenosis can help you recognize when it’s time to see a board-certified Los Angeles spine surgeon about your neck pain.
Cervical spinal stenosis is usually connected to age-related wear and tear of the spongy material between the seven bones of the spine making up the neck. If this material starts to “bulge” out, it can damage adjacent ligaments and cartilage or put pressure on nerves. In rare cases, a birth defect where the cervical spinal canal was narrow at birth can result in neck pain that becomes increasingly noticeable with development from childhood to adulthood. Symptoms associated with cervical spinal stenosis may include:
• Persistent neck pain and stiffness
• General “weakness” extending to the shoulders, arms, hands and legs
• Sudden difficulty with balance and coordination when walking
• Incontinence (loss of bladder/bowel functions)
All of the symptoms associated with cervical spinal stenosis can be associated with other conditions (multiple sclerosis, vitamin deficiencies), so often a doctor will only suspect that you have the condition based on symptoms presented. Symptoms are positively linked to cervical spinal stenosis with diagnostic testing that includes image testing (x-rays, MRIs, CT-scans), medical history and a determination of what movements trigger your neck pain.
NSAIDs are typically recommended to treat inflammation associated with mild cases of cervical spinal stenosis. Exercise and physical therapy can strengthen muscles supporting the neck to help maintain pain-free flexibility and range of motion. When tests show that the spinal cord itself is being compromised or nerve roots are clearly compressed, surgery like anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is likely to be the next course of action.
When nerve roots leaving the cervical spine become compressed, overall spinal function can be affected beyond neck movements. Early detection of the condition, however, can increase the odds that treatments will be effective.
If you’d like to learn more about diagnosing and treating cervical spinal stenosis, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae in Los Angeles, CA. Dr. Bae and his team of specialists can help you understand all of your treatment options and start you on the path to a pain-free lifestyle.