MedStar Orthopaedic Institute is home to accomplished, experienced spine surgeons who will work with you every step of the way to find the most effective solutions for your spinal pain. We help you understand the risks and benefits of all your treatment options so you can make the most informed and appropriate choices. Whenever we can, we recommend non-surgical treatment to manage your condition, like physical therapy or lifestyle changes. If you do need surgery, we specialize in the most advanced surgical methods for cervical spinal stenosis.
What is cervical stenosis?
Spinal stenosis refers to a condition that causes the vertebrae to tighten around the spinal cord. This causes the space within the spinal cord to constrict and adds pressure on the nerves that pass through. When this happens in the upper back or neck, it is known as cervical stenosis or cervical spinal stenosis.
What are the causes?
Cervical stenosis may be caused by any of these issues:
- The natural wear and tear of aging
- Neck problems or irregularities at birth
What are the risk factors?
There are numerous factors that can increase the risk of suffering from cervical stenosis:
- Age – People who are 50 years of age or over are more likely to develop some form of spinal stenosis.
- Smoking – Those who smoke cigarettes may have a higher likelihood of constricted blood vessels or other body passageways.
- Obesity – Being overweight or obese can add more stress to the spine and cause spinal instability.
- Past injury – A spinal injury, especially when experienced early in life, can affect the spine’s stability years later.
- Genetics – Sometimes, inherited traits can increase a person’s risk of suffering from spinal stenosis.
What are the symptoms?
This condition can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and can even be debilitating in some cases. It is important to visit an orthopedic specialist if you are suffering from any of these common symptoms:
- Pain in the upper back or neck
- Burning sensation or numbness in the arms or legs
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Worsening clumsiness or losing balance when walking
How is it diagnosed?
The spine surgeons at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute are experts at diagnosing spinal stenosis. Our initial exam generally includes:
- Medical history evaluation – This includes asking questions about when your pain began and when the pain feels most severe. Other questions may include whether you have other medical problems and if you take any medications.
- Physical exam – Your doctor will determine where your neck is most sensitive by examining it and by asking you to move your neck in different directions.
- Imaging tests – Your orthopedist may want to examine the bones and joints using a variety of imaging techniques, including:
- X-ray, which shows if your bones are aging, making cervical stenosis more likely.
- CT scan, which combines X-ray technology with computers to provide a very detailed picture of the spine.
- MRI, which uses powerful magnets and computer technology to create a picture of your muscles, tissues, nerves, and discs.
- Myelogram, in which your orthopedist injects a special dye into your spine. The dye colors your nerves and shows if they are being squeezed by the vertebrae.
What are the best treatment options?
Treatment options will vary depending on the severity of your pain. Our experienced surgeons at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute will walk you and your family through your options and help you determine the best treatment for your needs. Conservative treatment options involve:
- Pain and anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Exercise therapy
- Steroid injections
If conservative options are not successful, we may recommend spine surgery. Our surgeons are extensively trained in the most advanced and least invasive surgical treatment options, including:
- Minimally invasive spine surgery
- Motion-sparing spinal surgery
- Anterior cervical disc replacement
- Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
If you believe you may be suffering from cervical stenosis, call 202-295-0511 to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute. Our doctors have years of experience diagnosing and treating spinal conditions and are pleased to offer comprehensive spine care in the Washington, D.C. area.