What is Cervical Spinal Stenosis?

The spinal column protects the spinal cord, a long tube-like structure that connects the brain to the peripheral nervous system through the spinal nerves. It is made up of bones (called vertebrae) joints, discs, nerves and soft tissues. Cervical spinal stenosis occurs when the space within the spine that houses the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spinal column. Cervical spinal stenosis is more common in the aging population and is often described as a wear-and-tear condition. It is most frequently seen in the neck and lower back (called lumbar spinal stenosis).  The experts at BICMD can diagnose and offer treatment options for cervical spinal stenosis through a simple telemedicine visit which allows a private video conference with one of our “best-in-class” orthopedic spine specialists.

What is Myelopathy?

Myelopathy is the name for the set of symptoms that result from cervical spinal stenosis, or when any portion of the spinal cord becomes constricted, pinched or compressed. It describes any neurological deficit related to the spinal cord. Myelopathy can occur from degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, trauma or from congenital stenosis. The most common from of myelopathy is called cervical spondylotic myelopathy and is caused by spondylosis (arthritis) of the cervical spine, which causes spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal canal.

What causes cervical spinal stenosis?

The most common cause of cervical spinal stenosis is arthritis. Arthritic changes can cause bone formations, or bone spurs – also called spondylosis. Other causes include disc degeneration, where the disc of the next herniate, bulge or compress. Injuries from sports, trauma or a serious fall can cause a chain reaction of events that eventually lead to the narrowing of the spinal canal and nerve damage.

What are symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis and myelopathy?

Cervical spinal stenosis may not, by itself cause symptoms or pain. However, patients with cervical spinal stenosis often have symptoms of myelopathy, or neurological symptoms related to the compression of the spinal cord. The group of symptoms may include:

  • Neck, arm or hand pain
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Stumbling or tripping often
  • Loss of fine motor skills, such as writing or buttoning a shirt
  • Dropping objects or clumsiness
  • Loss of urinary or bowel control

How is myelopathy or cervical spinal stenosis diagnosed?

The experts at BICMD will obtain a detailed health history and inquire about the timing of the onset of symptoms. X-rays may be reviewed or ordered but an MRI is the best diagnostic tool for discovering the severity of cervical spinal stenosis. If the patient cannot have an MRI, a CT may be utilized instead. Once our experts have had a chance to correctly diagnose the spinal condition, they will offer the best treatment options available.

What is the treatment for myelopathy or cervical spinal stenosis?

The majority of individuals with cervical spinal stenosis will not need surgery. Non-surgical treatments designed to reduce pain may be recommended. Physical therapy, medications and spinal injections may help manage symptoms. However, if cervical spine stenosis becomes myelopathy and the spinal cord is pinched or compressed, surgery may become necessary.

Surgical options for myelopathy:

There are several surgical options for advanced cervical spinal stenosis and the resulting myelopathy. The orthopedic spine specialists at BICMD will explain the best options for your specific condition. These surgical treatments may include:

  • Minimally invasive decompression procedure
  • Cervical Laminoplasty
  • Cervical Laminectomy
  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

For more information and resources on cervical spinal stenosis and myelopathy, or to obtain a 2nd opinion before having a surgical procedure, please contact our specialists, by clicking on “Connect With a Doctor.” You will be connected to one of our orthopedic telemedicine experts through our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform.