The narrowing of the spinal canal is termed spinal stenosis. When the spinal canal narrows down, pressure is placed on the spinal cord. If the narrowing happens on the lower half of the backbone, the condition is called lumbar spinal stenosis. On the upper half, the condition is known as cervical spinal stenosis. The narrowing of the spinal canal may happen along any part of the spine but the most commonly affected areas are the lumbar and cervical areas.
Spinal stenosis is common in people over fifty years old. As people age, stenosis is the result of the aging of the spine. The ligaments along the spine thicken and harden. There are cases wherein the bones and joints broaden causing, but not in all instances, the formation of bone spurs or osteophytes. At this point, herniated discs and the slipping of one vertebra onto another can occur and lead to compression. These conditions cause the spinal canal to constrict. The narrowing of the spine therefore places pressure on the spinal nerve. in cervical spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal canal pinches into the nerve roots and spinal cord. The nerve function of the spinal cord may be affected.
The outward symptoms of spinal stenosis are pain, weakness, and numbness in the lower limbs, calves, and buttocks. The sensations experienced increase when the patients walk short distances. When the patient rests, the pain subsides. In cervical spinal stenosis, the same symptoms are felt in the shoulders, arms, and legs. The hands become clumsy and the walk or gait is unbalanced.
The pain can start in the lower extremities and marches up towards the buttocks. The pain can start in the higher regions of the body and moves downwards to the buttocks. A sharp burning pain is felt when the sense of pain moves upward or downward. Severe cases of cervical spinal stenosis can cause bladder and bowel complications but this is rare. The loss of function or paraplegia may happen but this is an extremely rare occurrence. Surgery is resorted to when the patient is always in severe pain. The surgery will involve the widening of the spinal canal to relieve the pressure on the nerves.
Cervical spinal stenosis can be treated without surgery. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to relieve swelling and pain. Pain relievers are also recommended to relieve pain. Corticosteroid injections are resorted to, to reduce swelling and acute pain. However, this is temporary and injections must not exceed three applications in a 6 months period. Rest and physical therapy are also advised.
There are several natural remedies for the pain caused by cervical spinal stenosis. Herbal and aromatherapy remedies are available to ease the discomfort of spinal cervical stenosis.