Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition where changes to the spine make the central canal smaller. The central canal is where the spinal cord travels down your back. If stenotic changes occur at the level of the cervical spine then symptoms can be widespread and can even affect balance and mobility.
The neck, fortunately isn’t too common an area for narrowing of the spinal canal, it is more common in the lumbar spine. The process is however similar and the narrowing typically occurs due to age related factors. Degenerative changes can cause a broad based disc bulge. The spinal facet joints can also become thickened and enlarged. The result is a narrowing of the central canal and mechanical pressure can be placed on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots.
Whilst the condition is a typically a degenerative process, a diagnosis needs to be made with appropriate radiological images. This can help determine the best course of treatment and also exclude any other forms of space occupying leisons.
It is important to note that images, such as MRI often show a narrowing of the central canal. It is therefore essential that investigations have a clinical correlation.
For example, if the MRI shows mechanical compression to the neural structures on the right side of the spinal canal at a level above or at the nerves for the triceps muscles and the patient has a clinically observed muscle wastage and loss of function in their right triceps muscle, then this is a good ‘clinical correlation’.
Please remember that all persons are full of abnormalities and therefore it is essential that any investigation images are relative to the persons clinical presentation.
The advise on helping to manage cervical spinal stenosis is generic and designed to help a person attain the best health of their neck. If muscle weakness, decreased mobility, balance problems, bladder and bowel problems or muscle wastage is observed, then the individual needs to be accurately diagnosed and must attend their healthcare practitioner.