Cervical spinal stenosis is a serious and chronic condition afflicting the spinal cord, a bundle of nerves that transmits signals between the brain and the rest of the body. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, take a moment to familiarize yourself with some information about the basics and the treatment process.
What exactly is cervical spinal stenosis?
The word “stenosis” comes from an Ancient Greek term meaning “narrowing”, and cervical spinal stenosis refers appropriately to the gradual narrowing of the internal space within the bones of the spinal column, often as a result of age- or injury-related spinal degeneration. Over time, this results in increasing physical pressure on the nerves of spinal cord.
Patients afflicted with early-form cervical spinal stenosis typically report symptoms that include:
- Numbness and/or tingling in the extremities
- Lower back pain, especially when standing and/or walking
- Leg cramps
Cervical spinal stenosis will not simply go away without treatment, and professional intervention is highly recommended. As the narrowing progresses, pressure on the nerves can often impair fine motor skills, bring on increasing levels of pain, cause incontinence, and even threaten paralysis.
While a number of non-surgical options are available to manage the symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis, these are not strictly curative. Early treatment options may include a regiment of carefully selected orthopedic exercises to strengthen the back (to avoid inactivity and muscle degradation, which can cause further debilitation) and the avoidance of any activities that aggravate the stenosis.
Any of a number of pain-reducing medications may be prescribed at the discretion of your physician, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDS”), opioids, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants. A number of NSAIDS, including ibuprofen and aspirin, are available over-the-counter and may be helpful to keep on hand.
If the patient’s condition does not quickly improve, a surgical decompression treatment may be recommended. Surgeons will remove some of the bone, disc, and/or tissue material that is compressing the nerve roots. In some cases, select vertebrae may be fused for additional stability. Surgical recovery usually takes only a few weeks, and most patients report remarkably lessened pain and physical impairment.
Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center is Atlanta’s leading provider in the fields of brain and spinal treatment. Contact us today for more information, or to request an appointment.