As we get older things just don’t work as smoothly as they did in our prime. This is even true of the spine and spinal cord within. Over time the spine can develop degenerative changes in the joints that can create a tightening of the spinal canal. This tightening may lead to pinching of the spinal cord, which then leads to issues with movement and coordination in the arms and legs. This is called cervical stenosis, sometimes also called cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy.
Cervical stenosis is a progressive condition that increases the compression/pinching of the spinal cord in the neck. It usually occurs in more elderly patients.
Symptoms of cervical stenosis
Because the spinal cord is being squeezed, the symptoms of cervical stenosis are nerve related. These are some of the typical symptoms:
- Arm pain
- Intermittent shooting pains into the arms and legs, especially when bending forward
- Deterioration of fine motor skills such as those needed to button your shirt
- Inability to walk briskly
- Heavy feeling in the legs
Arm pain is the usual symptom that brings patients to our team at Texas Neurosurgery looking for answers.
When a patient comes to us with symptoms of cervical stenosis, there are various methods we use to diagnose the condition.
An MRI scan and/or a CT scan can show the tight canal and spinal cord pinching. Since the condition can often be associated with instability, cervical spine x-rays are used to rule out abnormal motion and instability.
We also use Somatosensory Evoked Potentials (SEEP), an electrical test that stimulates the arms and legs and then reads the signals sent to the brain. A delay in the response time indicates there is a compromise in the spinal cord.
The only way to treat cervical stenosis is through surgery to alleviate the decompression of the spinal cord. The goal of this surgery is to arrest the progression of the condition. It may not always be possible to improve/reverse the symptoms. Cervical stenosis surgical decompression can be performed through the anterior (front) or posterior (back) approach. The decision will often depend on where the majority of the patient’s compression is occurring. Often multiple levels need to be decompressed, as well.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, we need to check you for cervical stenosis. This isn’t something to wait on because the nerve deterioration that occurs in the arms and legs can become permanent if the spinal cord compression is not alleviated.
Call us at 214-823-2052 for your appointment.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net