One of the medical conditions associated with aging, cervical spinal stenosis mostly affects patients age 50 and above. It occurs when tears in the patient’s degenerated discs caused the neck spinal canal to become narrow. Common symptoms can range from simple ones like neck pain and stiffness to serious conditions such as loss of balance and coordination as well as incontinence. As the condition progresses, some patients have been reported to suffer from cervical myelopathy. This is more popularly known as spinal cord compression.
Several years of research on this disease combined with the recent medical advances launched across the world show how medical professionals can easily diagnose patients and come up with effective treatments for them. Home therapies, steroid injections, physical therapy, and surgical procedures are the most recommended treatments. Aside from these, the birth of genomic medicine and stem cell treatments also show promise in improving the conditions of cervical spinal stenosis patients. To know more about this degenerative condition, here are the other important facts that medical professionals, patients, and their families should know when dealing with cervical spinal stenosis.
Aging is the most common cause of this health condition. However, there are also other factors that can contribute to the fast development of cervical spinal stenosis. Among them are having poor posture and previous injury. These could lead to structural changes that alter and weaken the functionality of the spine. Other causes are bone overgrowth, thickened ligaments as well as herniated disks.
Cervical spinal stenosis can also be a result of spinal osteoarthritis or spondylosis. The condition occurs when bone spurs form around the spinal nerves, leading to old patients suffering from this condition.
How do medical professionals diagnose cervical spinal stenosis in patients? Diagnoses of the health condition start with reviewing the patients’ medical history and conducting several neurological and physical examinations. Experts carry out some commonly done tests such as testing the patient’s reflexes, muscle strength, gait, and balance.
To confirm their medical findings, doctors will request for patients to undergo plain x-rays so they can have a closer view on possible bone spurs formation, disc height loss as well as spondylosis on their spinal canal. Magnetic resonance imaging test can also be done to have a closer look on their condition and assess the functionality of the soft tissues and nerves found in the neck’s spinal canal. Imaging examinations are important as these will help the healthcare professionals better identify the cause and effectively develop a treatment plan for the patient.
There are several treatment options that may be recommended by physicians depending on the age, wellness and medical history of the patient. Symptoms severity and stenosis location are also being considered when coming up with the best treatment option.
For patients with mild symptoms, self-care tips, and regular health monitoring will be recommended. Medications such as anti-seizure drugs, opioids, pain relievers, and antidepressants can also be prescribed to patients. Another treatment that can be tried is the steroid injection as this helps alleviate severe pain and lessen inflammation of the affected tissue. However, patients are being warned that steroids are not safe to be used on a regular basis and can only be injected a few times in a 12-month period as these could further weaken the functionality of the connective tissue and bones in their spinal canal.
Simple Home Remedies
To relieve the symptoms of this medical condition, patients can try simple remedies at home. Placing cold or hot packs on the neck is helpful to lessen inflammation and pain. Regularly exercising and maintaining a healthy weight is also essential to open up the spinal canal and reduce the pain that they are experiencing.
Decompression Procedure and Surgery
Percutaneous image-guided lumbar decompression procedure is another effective treatment option that patients with severe cervical spinal stenosis can try. This procedure is done using needle-like medical instruments to eliminate nerve root impingement and enhance the spinal canal space. This minimally invasive procedure is effective especially for those who are identified to have high surgical risks.
If all of the treatments discussed above still fall short of improving the symptoms and alleviating the pain experienced by cervical spinal stenosis, undergoing surgery is commonly recommended by medical professionals. Laminectomy, laminotomy, and laminoplasty are the most common surgical procedures that are being done to maintain the strength of the spine.
Cervical spinal stenosis patients commonly experience pain which causes them to be less active. To prevent them from experiencing muscle weakness, working with a physical therapist is helpful for their fast recovery. Strengthening the bones is one of the benefits that they can get from having a regular physical therapy session. Other benefits include improving their balance and boosting their spine stability.
Aside from the medically recommended treatments and physical therapy, some patients are trying alternative medicines to further improve their condition. To easily cope with the pain associated with having cervical spine stenosis, integrative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic procedures and massage therapy, can be combined with conventional treatments. However, it is still best to consult with your physician before trying these alternative treatments. Their effectiveness and safety may be affected by some factors such as the age and wellness of the patient.
Clinical Trials and Future Treatment Options
Stem cell treatments, which are very popular in clinical trials nowadays, show great promise in helping patients who are diagnosed with cervical spine stenosis and other spinal diseases. Also known as regenerative medicine, this treatment works by generating healthy stem cells from the patient and use these to repair the damaged cells.
Genomic medicine is also getting the attention of the medical world. It is helpful not just in treating cervical spinal stenosis patients but also in diagnosing and identifying the underlying cause of their condition. By being able to assess the gene-health interaction, it will be easier for experts to identify what causes their condition and develop more effective tailor-made treatments for their patients.