About Physiatry

Cervical Stenosis

Condition: Cervical stenosis is when the spinal cord in the neck is pinched or squeezed slowly over time.

Background: In the U.S., approximately 5% of adults have cervical stenosis. It is more common in older people. However, it happens to younger people as well, particularly those who participate in contact sports. Many people with cervical stenosis also have cervical spondylosis which is a condition where the bones and joints in the neck start to deteriorate.

Risk Factors: Besides older age, examples of risk factors include participating in contact sports such as football, soccer, rugby, and horseback riding.

History and Symptoms. Symptoms include pain, and weakness in the neck, arms and legs, as well as tingling, numbness and stiffness. It can also affect the ability to control the bladder or bowels.

Physical Exam: Physicians check range of motion in the patient’s neck, reflexes, and muscle strength. Patients will also be asked to walk, so the physician can check their balance and better understand their condition.

Diagnostic Process: A doctor may recommend imaging tests of the neck and back, such as
X-rays, MRIs or CT scans in order to see what is causing the narrowing of the spinal canal.

Rehab Management: Physical therapy can help both injured athletes as well as older persons with cervical stenosis, however older people may need additional rehabilitation, such as occupational therapy or psychological treatment.

Other Resources for Patients and Families: It is important for older patients with cervical stenosis to avoid falls. The CDC offers a free downloadable guide on preventing falls that includes many tips, resources, exercises and more that may help. Additionally, the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator can help connect families and caregivers to resources they may need.


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