Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the spinal canal begins to narrow. The narrowing of the spinal canal oftentimes causes pain and a range of additional symptoms patients will need to find a way to handle until the condition is diagnosed and treated. When the spinal canal becomes narrower, this issue will likely compress the spinal cord as well as the nerves within this area.
The main cause of cervical spinal stenosis is changes made to the body by any kind of arthritis. Additional causes include the presence of tumors, herniated discs, and injuries such as a fracture. Along with pain, patients may experience numbness and stiffness in the back. While cervical spinal stenosis can't be completely cured, there are a variety of treatment options that can help with managing and relieving the pain.
Regular Physical Exercise
One of the best and most effective non-surgical treatments for cervical spinal stenosis is to engage in regular physical exercise. Patients can put this treatment option into practice on their own or with the assistance of a physical therapist who can alter the exercises they perform based on the exact needs their body has. The exercises used to treat spinal stenosis typically center around strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which combine to reduce pain and allow patients to complete everyday tasks without issue.
When patients attempt to improve their balance, tools like exercise balls and wobble boards can assist with this while also strengthening their core muscles. Patients can also improve their back strength and flexibility with such exercises as partial curls, leg raises, and bridges. The main benefit of using a physical therapist in combination with these exercises is they will make sure patients don't push past their limits, which could serve to aggravate cervical spinal stenosis.
When the pain caused by cervical spinal stenosis has become severe in nature, it may be difficult for patients to stand and walk, which is why they might want to consider using assistive devices to help. These devices can be everything from a walker or cane to braces. These assistive devices are commonly used by individuals with arthritis or similar conditions that can make it difficult to maintain standard movements. If the pain has reached the point where patients are unable to move well in their home, they'll definitely want to consider making use of some of these devices.
The type of brace most commonly used with cervical spinal stenosis is a back brace, which provides a substantial amount of support to the back and spine while keeping the patient comfortable. The use of a back brace allows the core muscles surrounding the spine to relax. Walkers are specifically designed to provide individuals with more stability and balance while they walk.
Surgical Intervention Options
If cervical spinal stenosis has progressed to the point where it's difficult for patients to walk or they're having issues with their bowel and bladder movements, surgery may be necessary to at least lessen the severity of these symptoms. The surgical procedure patients are provided with mostly depends on the surgeon's specific recommendation. The most common surgeries for spinal stenosis include laminoplasty and laminectomy procedures, both of which are designed to create more space for the bones in the spinal cord.
Because of the inherent risks of surgery, it's important for patients to explore their non-surgical options before opting for surgery. A patient's surgeon will be able to better inform them about the results they should expect as well as the recovery time that comes with the procedure for their specific case of cervical spinal stenosis. Some of the additional surgeries used for spinal stenosis include foraminotomy, cervical arthroplasty, and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.
Muscle Relaxant Medication
Muscle relaxant medications are designed to be used for certain aspects of cervical spinal stenosis that may not be relieved with other treatments. The use of these medications should help with any of the damaged nerves and muscle spasms patients have been experiencing because of cervical spinal stenosis. When individuals develop cervical spinal stenosis, the pressure caused as the spinal canal narrows can create a range of problems that affect their nerves and surrounding muscles.
When patients experience muscle spasms, the muscles around their spinal cord will become painful and tighten, which can make it difficult to move their back until the condition is treated. Muscle relaxants reduce muscle contractions for a brief period. However, it's important for patients to take the correct dosage as provided by their doctor. They should, of course, look out for side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, depression, and reduced blood pressure when taking these medications.
It's highly recommended to take some form of pain medication when suffering from cervical spinal stenosis. Patients can obtain these medications over-the-counter in low dosages, which should relieve minor pain. Patients with severe pain may want to ask their doctor for a prescription for slightly stronger pain relievers. Some of the most common pain medications used to treat cervical spinal stenosis include acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen. These can be obtained in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. Since pain is the most common side effect of cervical spinal stenosis, it's likely these medications would be able to provide patients with at least some relief. All medications can cause side effects, which patients should be aware of before taking them.