Cervical spinal stenosis is the result of degenerative changes in your vertebrae and discs, which in turn leads to the compression of your spinal cord (referred to as myelopathy).
Watch: Cervical Spinal Stenosis Video
Our video walk-through can give you an in-depth overview of this common condition.
The spinal cord (shown above) is a nerve bundle that runs from the base of your brain to your lower back.
If your spine is healthy, there is ample space for your spinal cord in your spinal canal.
However, degenerative changes, which typically occur slowly, can cause your spinal canal to narrow. This places you more at risk for developing cervical spinal stenosis.
Causes of cervical spinal stenosis
Osteoarthritis and herniated discs can both lead to degenerative changes that ultimately result in cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy. Of note, it is possible for both to occur separately or concurrently.
The image above pictures cervical osteoarthritis. Over time, the cartilage between the facet joints degenerates, causing friction (shown in red) between the bones. Bone spurs, or osteophytes, may form as a result of this friction.
These osteophytes can irritate your nerves exiting your spinal canal through your foraminal opening. They may also encroach on the spinal cord itself.
In the case of a herniated disc, the above image shows a cervical disc herniating into the spinal canal, and so impinging on the nerve roots. Additionally, a herniated disc may further impinge upon nerve roots that already have some foraminal compression due to osteoarthritis.
Symptoms and implications
The functioning of your spinal cord can be adversely affected by myleopathy.
Symptoms can include a lack of hand coordination or a heavy feeling in your legs. You may also develop a shuffling gate or trip easily when you are walking. You might also experience a combination of numbness, weakness, and/or pain in your arms, hands, and legs.
In addition, you may have a loss of bladder or bowel control.
It is important to quickly diagnose cervical spinal stenosis with myleopathy because it can be permanently disabling if you allow it to progress too far.
The only effective cervical stenosis treatment for myelopathy is surgical decompression of the spinal canal.