The spine is essentially a stack of intricate bones and tissue surrounded by nerves, beginning at the base of the skull and stretching down to the pelvis. The spine allows us to twist, bend, sit up straight and withstand the impact of daily activities. Over time, the spine has a tendency to degenerate, becoming more vulnerable to neck and back issues, such as spinal stenosis in the neck.
What Is Stenosis of the Neck?
Spinal stenosis of the neck is the narrowing of space in the cervical spine in one of three places:
- The center of the spine
- The canals where nerves branch out of the spine
- The space between vertebrae
The narrowing of the cervical spine can put pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Stenosis occurs most often in the neck or lower back, and degenerative problems, such as osteoarthritis and herniated discs, can cause the space in the spinal cord to become narrower. If left untreated, cervical stenosis can leave permanent damage.
What Causes Stenosis?
The most common cause of stenosis in the cervical spine is aging. As the tissues between the spinal vertebrae change with age, bone spurs can develop, discs can degenerate and facet joints can become weaker. If any of these conditions occur, the likelihood of developing spinal stenosis in the neck or other regions of the spine increases. Other causes of stenosis include arthritis, spinal instability, tumors on the spine, genetics and trauma.
Stenosis Symptoms in the Neck
Symptoms experienced due to stenosis can vary. Some common symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and hot or cold sensations. Some people may experience clumsiness and difficulty with bladder or bowel control. While these symptoms are common, it is not unheard of for some to experience no pain or discomfort at all—particularly when nerves are not affected by the narrowing of the spine.
Who’s at Risk for Stenosis?
It’s possible for anyone to develop stenosis, yet some people are more at risk than others. Generally speaking, stenosis is most commonly caused by aging and wear and tear that accumulates over time. People at high risk for stenosis include those who are arthritic, people who were born with small spinal canals, those with a weakened spine or people who have experienced trauma to the spine.
The MISI Approach to Stenosis Treatment
If physical therapy and medication have proven to be unsuccessful in treating your symptoms related to stenosis, it may be wise to consider minimally invasive surgical treatments for stenosis at MISI. While traditional surgical methods for treating stenosis leave patients in recovery for a matter of months, the doctors at MISI take a different approach. This means, with only a small incision and minimally invasive techniques—such as our minimally invasive lumbar or cervical microdecompression procedure—we are able to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with stenosis. With nothing more than a simple bandage, our patients oftentimes leave our facility within 24 hours after their surgery. For more information about the MISI approach to minimally invasive stenosis treatments, visit our treatment page here.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.