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Cervical stenosis (also called cervical spinal stenosis) is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck area. This narrowing can place pressure on the spinal cord which can cause pain, numbness, or stiffness in the neck, shoulders, arms, or legs. The most common cause is aging from "wear and tear" on the spine. Cervical stenosis treatment can vary depending on how severe the case is.
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Most people with cervical stenosis are successfully treated without having to undergo surgery. Non-operative treatments include:
Pain and anti-inflammatory medications - Medications include analgesics, muscle relaxants, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and corticosteroids.
Compresses - Heat or ice packs are used.
Massage - Traditional Swedish massage can help reduce pain but care must be taken to avoid inflamed joints.
Activity restriction - Few days of bed rest.
Immobilization - Wearing a cervical collar (neck brace) for a period of time.
Traction - The act of pulling bone to relieve pressure.
Exercises - Prescribed exercises to help strengthen the neck and increase flexibility.
Electrical stimulation - A treatment that uses electrical currents.
Acupuncture - Inserting needles in specific points on the body to relieve pain.
Acupressure - Applying pressure with the fingers to specific points on the body to relieve pain.
Chiropractic - Manipulation to help realign the spine. This will help reduce stress on the spinal column and nerves.
Transforaminal nerve sheath injection - In more severe cases, a local anesthetic is injected around the compressed nerve.
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Severe or unresponsive cases may require surgery to help strengthen the spine and relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. There are several types of surgery.
The most common type is called a decompressive laminectomy in which the laminae (roof of the spinal canal) are removed. This creates more space for the nerves. If only part of the laminae is removed, the procedure is called a laminotomy.
A posterior laminoplasty is a type of surgery that not only expands the spinal canal, it also helps to retain spinal stability.
If there are herniated or bulging discs, a procedure called a discectomy is performed to remove these to increase canal space.
Another procedure is called a foraminotomy. This enlarges the area where the nerve roots exit the spinal canal (foramen).
If you are diagnosed with this problem, your health care provider will discuss the best cervical stenosis treatment for you.
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Princeton Brain & Spine Care: Cervical Stenosis Causes and Treatment - http://www.princetonbrainandspine.com/subject.php?pn=cervical-stenosis-008
Precision Neurosurgery: Cervical Spinal Stenosis - http://www.precisionneurosurgery.com.au/html/conditions_cervicalstenosis.htm
Institute For Integrative Healthcare Studies: Four Alternative Therapies for Spinal Stenosis - http://www.integrative-healthcare.org/mt/archives/2008/11/four_alternativ.html
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Image courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (NLM)