Stenosis is a term used to describe a narrowing of various parts of the body. Cervical stenosis is a degenerative disease where the spinal canal and neural foramina narrow and compress the spinal cord and nerve roots. Stenosis occurs when pressure increases inflaming the facet joints. The facet joints are overlapping arches that form the spinal canal. These joints are covered with cartilage and a membrane. Degenerative changes and wear and tear can cause the facet joints to inflame. This disorder is most common in people over 50 years of age. However, genetics and congenital factors may predispose a person for stenosis.
The symptoms of cervical stenosis are very similar to that of disc herniation, except that disc herniation is an acute event, while stenosis is a chronic, slowly progressive process that can have episodes of worsening. Patients who have severe cervical stenosis may suffer from a shooting pain that can feel a bit like an electric shock, especially when they flex their neck and tip their chin down to their chest. Spinal stenosis may also cause numbness, weakness, burning sensations, tingling, and pins and needles in the involved extremity.
Physicians diagnose cervical stenosis when patients have characteristic symptoms and there is evidence on x-rays that there is not enough space available for the spinal cord. A physician may use also use a MRI to determine whether or not the spinal cord is narrowing and where the narrowing is occurring, the degree of the compression, and any nerve roots that may be involved. Removal of the obstruction that caused the symptoms usually gives patients some relief.