Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurring in the neck is known as cervical spinal stenosis(CSS). CSS is the narrowing of space in and around the cervical spine. More specifically, narrowing of the spinal canal is often referred to as central stenosis. Cervical spinal stenosis occurs mostly in adults age 60 and over and is commonly caused by degenerative changes of the vertebrae and intervertebral disc(s).

Intevertebral discs are a gel-like cushion that acts like a shock absorber between vertebrae. As we age, these discs lose their water content and some of their shock-absorbing capacity. This in turn may lead to what is called a disc collapse which results in the space between the discs shrinking and ultimately affecting the alignment of the facet joints. The facet joints are located on the back side of each vertebrae. When the alignment of the facet joints are affected bone spurs may form and osteoarthritis of the facet joints may occur. With the onset of bone spurs, the risk of cervical spinal stenosis increases if bone spurs form on the facets, vertebrae or around a nerve in the cervical spine.

Anatomy of the Cervical Spine Animation

Animation Reference: Spine Universe

Cervical Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Symptoms of cervical spinal stenosis are similar to those of lumbar spinal stenosis except when nerve pain exists, the pain or weakness will most often be located in the shoulders, arms and hands rather than the lower extremities. The lower extremities may still be affected but most patients complain of discomfort or numbness in the hands.

Symptoms include:

  • Radicular nerve pain (pinched nerve)
  • Weakness or numbness in the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Pain in the lower extremities
  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Loss of balance or stability
  • Myelopathy (pressure on spinal cord)

Depending on the severity of cervical spinal stenosis, many treatment options are available. For more information regarding cervical spine and other information on the neck please visit: neck pain.