Cervical central canal stenosis occurs in the neck and refers to a narrowing of the central spinal canal, which is the main passageway in the spine where the spinal cord and spinal fluid are stored.
Stenosis can also occur in the foramina, which are the open passageways on either side of each vertebra through which spinal nerves exit the spinal cord.
Cervical central canal stenosis and other forms of spinal stenosis do not cause pain on their own. However, because the central canal holds many spinal nerves, a narrowed canal space increases the risk of pinching or trapping one of those nerve roots. Nerve compression can trigger a series of symptoms, including:
- Pain at the site of the nerve compression
- Pain that travels from the spine to the nearest extremity
- Muscle weakness or numbness
- Tingling or pins-and-needles feeling
Spinal stenosis, and specifically cervical central canal stenosis, is often caused as a result of another degenerative spine condition, such as a prolapsed disc, herniated or bulging disc, disc protrusion, osteophytes or a thickened ligamentum flavum. These conditions can cause a component of the spine to shift out of alignment, which can ultimately decrease the amount of free space in the central spinal canal.
Diagnostic methods for cervical central canal stenosis
In order to start the best treatment regimen for your pain, your physician must diagnose the cause of your spinal stenosis and evaluate your overall condition. There are a variety of ways to diagnose spinal canal stenosis, including:
- Physical examination — Your physician will ask you for your medical history and an account of all your symptoms. He or she may also palpate your spine or ask you to do a few movements to check for range of motion, flexibility and pain.
- MRI — This stands for “magnetic resonance imaging” and involves a powerful magnet and radio frequency waves that scan the body. A detailed image of the body’s soft tissues is produced when the scan is complete.
- Myelogram — A dye is injected into the spinal canal, which causes the spinal cord and surrounding nerves to show up as white objects against bone when an X-ray is taken.
- Bone scan — A radioactive material is injected into the body, and it sticks to degenerated or fractured portions of bone. Medical imaging reveals the location of bone damage or deterioration.
Treatment options for cervical canal stenosis
If your physician confirms that you have cervical stenosis, most likely your next step is to begin a regimen of conservative treatment designed to relieve pressure on the compressed nerve that is causing your pain. This could be accomplished through several methods, such as:
- Physical therapy
- Yoga and stretching
- Lifestyle change such as weight loss and diet change
- Chiropractic care
In some cases, your physician may prescribe pain medication to block the pain receptors near the pinched nerve while you are treating the symptoms. Conservative treatments may take several months before being fully effective, and the pain medication can help you perform your daily activities during that period.
If you still have not found relief after several months of conservative therapy, your physician may recommend spine surgery. At USA Spine Care, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain caused by spinal stenosis and other spine conditions. Because of our minimally invasive approach to spine surgery, our procedures are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open spine surgery.
For patients suffering from the pain of spinal stenosis, take the next step to reclaim your life by requesting a review of your MRI report or CT scan. Our team will provide information about our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures relative to the severity and cause of your condition. Contact us today and start your journey to wellness.
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