Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the cervical vertebrae. The vertebrae have narrow openings between them. Each vertebra is hollow and houses bundles of nerve fibers. The vertebrae protect the nerves. There are times where the vertebrae change shape. Most often than not, this is a result of age. As the vertebrae change shape, it puts pressure on the nerves of the cervical spine. This is a serious problem because nerves are what control both movement and feeling. If the signals that are being transmitted to these nerves are disrupted, you will not respond properly. Many people struggle with numbness and stiffness. Over time symptoms may worsen to the point you lose control of bladder and bowel function. When you start noticing symptoms, you should seek medical attention. Getting treatment early may keep you from needing surgery.
The spine is an important structure of the body. It is needed for standing and posture. Spine issues cause a lot of pain and discomfort. It may leave you deformed. The spine is also important because it houses the nerves. The nerves run from the brain down the back almost to the butt bone. That bundle of nerves controls the whole body. The nerves do branch off from the spinal column to the extremities and other parts of the body. Nerves operate through electrical signals. It almost works similar to a lamp. When you turn on a light, if there is a short in the wire, the light may not turn on quick enough, or it glitches and goes in and out. When the electrical signals in the nerves are interrupted, you will not respond well. Your movements may be slow or unsure.
The spine is divided into three sections: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. The cervical spine contains seven vertebrae total. When the vertebrae undergo structural changes, they may narrow and put pressure on the nerves in a condition known as cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis has many different causes. A bulging disk is one cause. The disk will come out of line with the other vertebrae. Sometimes the ligaments connecting the vertebrae together become thick. This thickening narrows the space between vertebrae. Sometimes bone spurs develop. A bone spur is simply an outgrowth of bone. Extra bone material only causes pain and narrowing. Each condition has its set of symptoms. A common symptom among them all is spinal pressure, which affects the nerves of the spine.
Cervical stenosis does not cause symptoms in some people, but in others, you lose control of bodily functions. Symptoms are dependent upon whether or not the nerves of the spinal column are being smashed. If the nerves are not bothered, you can have stenosis and not even know it. Many people do experience symptoms. Those symptoms include stiffness, numbness, and weakness, typically in the extremities, neck, and shoulders. Along with these things, you could experience a lot of pain. Sometimes balance is off. The nerves of the spine control walking, that is why spinal injuries put you at risk for paralysis. When these nerves are smashed, you trip a lot and do not walk smoothly. Sometimes the nerves are damaged. It does not usually cause paralysis, but it may leave you wheelchair bound. Even more serious problems include loss of bowel and bladder control. This can be very difficult to deal with and very embarrassing. When symptoms become this bad, you have to go to the doctor to see what the problem is.
The first step for getting a diagnosis is talking with your doctor about your symptoms. If you are struggling with incontinence, you may be embarrassed to talk about it, but you should not. Be open with your doctor about all your symptoms. After a physical examination and discussion, the doctor will order either X-ray, an MRI, or a CT scan. These test will reveal cervical stenosis. Once the condition is confirmed, the next step is treatment. Medication can relieve a lot of symptoms. It is mostly used to control pain. Exercise and physical therapy are also helpful treatments. When things are severe, and you are losing feeling and control of certain parts of the body, you may need surgery. The purpose of surgery is to relieve the pressure by removing the problem. This means the doctor may remove the bulging disc, excess tissue, or bone spur. When parts of the spine are removed, the doctor may choose to fuse the vertebrae together. Fusion creates more stability, but it will limit flexibility at that joint. Treatment is strictly dependent upon the severity of the problem.
Cervical stenosis happens in many people over the age of 50. Although everyone experiences vertebrae changes as they age, not everyone deals with the symptoms. With the cervical vertebrae housing the nerves, any changes puts you at risk for nerve damage. If you are experiencing abnormal numbness or weakness, you should see the doctor right away. When you decide not to go to the doctor, you will only make things worse. Cervical stenosis can happen to anyone, but being aware of it will keep you from experiencing severe symptoms.
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