Common Causes of Cervical Stenosis

A common cause of chronic neck pain, cervical stenosis refers to a narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical (neck) region of the spine. The narrowed space can place pressure on nerve roots and the spinal cord. Some people have no symptoms, while others experience pain, tingling, stiffness, and numbness.

If you have neck pain that doesn’t go away, it’s crucial to see a health care provider -- preferably a spine specialist like our orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Jones II here at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas -- for a thorough evaluation. Not everyone with neck pain has cervical stenosis, making proper diagnosis key to effective treatment. 

What is cervical stenosis?

The spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae that span from the base of the skull to the tailbone. The spinal cord consists of a bundle of nerves that run through the spinal canal. These nerves transmit messages from the brain and spinal cord to all parts of the body.

In patients with cervical stenosis, the neck area of the spinal canal becomes too narrow and compresses the nerve roots or the spinal cord itself. Most cases of cervical stenosis occur in patients over age 50. Degenerative changes to the spine that occur as you age is the most common cause of cervical stenosis.

What causes cervical stenosis?

Cervical stenosis primarily affects older adults. Most people have some changes to their spine by the age 45. Wear and tear on the spine changes the shape and diameter of the spinal canal over time, causing a gradual loss of spinal structure. This makes age-related changes to the spine the most common cause of cervical stenosis. 

These changes include:

In a small number of cases, injury and tumors are responsible for narrowing of the spinal canal. 

Symptoms of cervical stenosis

Symptoms depend on the extent of the narrowing of the cervical spinal canal. Compression of the nerve roots can cause:

Cervical myelopathy is a serious issue that involves compression of the spinal cord, and it can result from spinal stenosis. Because the spinal cord carries messages to many parts of the body, patients with cervical myelopathy experience a wide variety of symptoms. 

In addition to neck pain, patients may experience:

Diagnosing cervical stenosis

At The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas, we diagnose and treat a full range of conditions affecting the spine. Dr. Jones conducts a thorough physical exam and takes a detailed history of your symptoms when considering a diagnosis of cervical stenosis. 

If there is suspicion of cervical stenosis, imaging tests of your neck help confirm the diagnosis. These tests include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans. 

Cervical stenosis treatment

In mild cases, a combination of physical therapy and medication can be used to manage cervical stenosis. Steroid injections are helpful in relieving pain and inflammation in some cases. Decompressive surgery to relieve the pressure on the spinal canal or spinal cord is an effective approach for treating moderate-to-severe cases of cervical stenosis. 

Providing more room in the spinal canal relieves pain and associated symptoms. Once your condition is diagnosed, Dr. Jones discusses the recommended course of treatment to address your symptoms.

If chronic neck pain is affecting your quality of life, Dr. Jones offers nonsurgical and surgical treatments to relieve pain and restore spinal function. For more information on relief from chronic neck pain and for all of your spine needs, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Jones. 

To serve you, we have offices in Pearland, Houston, and Lake Jackson, Texas. Phone the nearest office, or book your appointment here on the website.

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