Care at CNSO – Understanding Cervical Stenosis


tenosis is a medical term that describes abnormal narrowing of a passage in your body. For example, coronary stenosis is narrowing of a coronary artery in the heart, which can lead to restricted blood flow and heart attack. Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the canal inside the bones of the spine, through which the spinal cord and nerves travel. When this narrowing causes pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, they may not function normally. Spinal stenosis in the neck is called cervical stenosis.

Your spinal cord is a cable full of nerves, similar in diameter to your index finger, that carries electrical signals between your brain and various body parts. Through this thick cable of nerves, the brain receives sensory information from the body, and sends motor commands to the muscles. Because the spinal cord is extremely delicate, it is protected within a canal made up of the bones and joints of the spinal column.

Narrowing of this canal usually results from degenerative, arthritic changes to the bones and joints of the spinal column. As we age, our bones and joints naturally succumb to daily wear and tear, in a process known as arthritis. Arthritic joints can become enlarged or deformed, as is typically seen in arthritic knuckles in the hands and fingers. When these arthritic deformities occur in the cervical spine, overgrown joints, ligaments, or bone spurs can crowd into the canal reserved for the spinal cord and nerves, resulting in cervical stenosis, and pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

Therefore, cervical stenosis is more common with aging. In the general population, only about one in twenty adults have cervical stenosis. However, that incidence is doubled for those over 70.

If neural compression from cervical stenosis becomes sufficiently advanced, electrical signals in the spinal cord can be interrupted, and the ability of your brain to communicate with your body becomes impaired. This can result in numbness in the hands and fingers, loss of dexterity, weakness, or poor balance. Pressure on the nerves can also result in pain into the arms and hands.

In general, cervical stenosis symptoms tend to be mild, and do not require aggressive intervention. Physical therapy for core and neck strengthening, postural training, and skeletal stabilization slows or reverses the progression of arthritic damage and joint overgrowth. Most people with stenosis can learn to manage their symptoms effectively and prevent recurrences. However, in some instances, cervical stenosis is advanced, causing severe pain, weakness, or functional loss. When this occurs, surgery may be warranted, and entails enlarging the narrowed spinal, giving the spinal cord and nerves more space to travel freely.

When seeking treatment for cervical stenosis, take care to seek the help of experienced, qualified spine specialists who understand the complexities of diagnosing spine ailments: many of your symptoms, such as pain or tingling, cannot be measured, and may result from common conditions unrelated to cervical stenosis. The diagnosis of symptomatic cervical stenosis can never be made from MRIs alone, because most adults have abnormal findings on MRI even if they do not have symptoms. Beware of providers who offer free MRI reviews.

A spine specialist evaluating your cervical stenosis must be willing to spend a great deal of time listening to you in order to gather clues about where your symptoms are coming from. He or she must also conduct a detailed physical and neurological examination. It is only then that your spine specialist can make sense of your complicated MRI, with many possible abnormal findings, and determine whether these findings are related to your specific symptoms and signs. This is an important point: If the initial diagnosis is incorrect, all treatment plans will result in failure, even if those treatments are performed well.

Up to 95% of cervical stenosis patients will return to normal activity without surgery. The body has a remarkable capacity for healing, and the role of your spine specialist is to guide you through this process quickly, and prevent future recurrences of symptoms.

However, for the rare patients who do need injections or surgery to regain normal function, the spine specialists must have a broad range of skills and a proven record of technical mastery to assure optimal outcomes. You owe it to yourself to get treatment from the best spine specialists in the field.

NJ’s only Comprehensive Center for Cervical Stenosis: Available near you for evaluation, treatment, and follow up care.

The dedicated team at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine, and Orthopedics (CNSO) understands how neck and back problems can impact your daily life. By working with this team of renowned, board-certified neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, non-surgical physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists, you will receive comprehensive and coordinated care, so you can quickly resume a healthy, less painful lifestyle free from disability. CNSO offers multiple convenient locations spanning across northern New Jersey, including offices in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex, Hudson, and Sussex Counties. Northern NJ patients can learn more about effectively treating cervical stenosis by contacting the providers at CNSO today.

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