Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition in which the narrowing of the spinal canal pinches the spinal nerves and spinal cord. The spinal canal is responsible for protecting the spinal cord and its surrounding nerve roots, and when it can no longer carry out its job, it causes extreme muscle and joint pain. The pinching of the spinal nerves is excruciatingly painful and is known as spinal stenosis.
What is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?
Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition affecting the neck caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal. When the portion of the spinal canal that encloses the cervical spine narrows, pain signals are sent throughout the arms and hands, initiating weakness in the neck and sometimes extending to the legs.
Cervical spinal stenosis is typically caused by age-related changes in the size and shape of the spinal canal. It is most common in people 50 and older.
Some individuals are born with a narrow spinal canal, in which case they are more susceptible to developing spinal stenosis later on in life. Others develop the condition for a variety of reasons including; a previous injury to the spine, the thickening of ligaments around the vertebrae, a herniated disc, or even poor posture.
Symptoms of Neck Cervical Stenosis
Neck pain; mild or severe
Spinal stenosis causes stiffness and discomfort in the neck. The pinching of the spinal nerve endings in the spinal canal can cause complete lack of motion and weakness in the neck.
Weakness in the legs
Individuals suffering from this condition may have difficulty maintaining their balance. They experience extreme weakening in the legs to the point that walking becomes difficult. The resulting discomfort, numbness, and tingling can lead (in extreme cases) to paralysis of the legs.
Abnormal bladder and bowel function
Spinal stenosis is responsible for varying degrees of nerve damage, and loss of bladder control is a common response. This nerve damage, along with paralysis, can cause patients to experience abnormal bladder and bowel functioning. Rheumatologists diagnose this condition by looking for a partial loss of feeling in the surrounding muscles.
This bladder dysfunction is accompanied by a loss of feeling between the legs, as a result of compressed nerve endings and the shrinking of the spinal canal.
Numbness and tingling
Many people affected by spinal stenosis complain about their legs and feet feeling numb. This numbness can affect the patient’s ability to walk because of the gradual weakening of the legs. As a response, it is recommended that people suffering from spinal stenosis exercise their legs daily to regain muscle mass and feeling.
How is it Diagnosed?
A diagnosis of cervical spinal stenosis is usually based on a medical exam and your history of symptoms. If neck movements are causing any discomfort or numbness, your chiropractor will recommend imaging tests like x-rays and a CT scan.
The first step to receiving treatment for cervical spinal stenosis is to visit your chiropractor. Although there is no cure as of now, there are several treatment techniques which can alleviate symptoms.
Most cases can be treated successfully with anti-inflammatory medications and non-invasive techniques. However, in more severe cases, patients may need to wear a brace or cervical collar to restrict activity and encourage healing.
In treating spinal stenosis, chiropractors use techniques such as spinal manipulation and adjustments. To receive the best possible care for spinal stenosis, patients are encouraged to contact Michigan Chiropractic Specialists to schedule an assessment appointment with a licensed chiropractor.
Cervical spinal stenosis can cause serious problems with the nervous system including incontinence, and permanent loss of strength in the extremities. When caught early, patients have the chance to regain their strength and prevent further weakening through exercise and strength building.