Cervical Spinal Stenosis is Just One Possible Cause of Neck Pain

Discover the top causes of cervical spinal stenosis at the root of your neck pain. I reveal the common symptoms and best treatments.

Stenosis means narrowing. Cervical stenosis can come in the form of central stenosis or foraminal stenosis.

Both are possible causes of neck pain.

A narrowing of the canal in which the spinal cord sits is called central stenosis. A narrowing of the foramen through which a nerve root passes is called cervical foraminal stenosis. A person can be diagnosed with both.


The typical symptoms of cervical stenosis are similar to a pinched nerve in your neck or herniated disc symptoms and include the following.

  • Neck muscle pain, spasms, and tightness
  • Tight muscles and spasms in the shoulder and upper back
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain into the shoulder and sometimes into the arm all the way to the finger tips
  • Numbness and tingling into the arms and fingers
  • Headaches - both behind the eyes and top of the head
  • Gait and balance problems

In severe cases symptoms can also include bladder and bowel problems. Other severe symptoms can include myleopathy or paraplegia which is a loss of function in either the upper or lower extremities.

cervical spinal stenosis, possible causes of neck pain, cervical nerve damage

In foraminal cervical stenosis only the nerve root is impinged so symptoms will be isolated to neck pain or radiculopathy in the upper body. This nerve root is the communication link from the brain to your upper back, arms and fingers. Radiculopathy results from cervical nerve damage with symptoms radiating out to these extremities all the way down to the finger tips.

The diagram below shows you how the nerves coming from the 7 cervical vertebrae branch out to the upper back, shoulders and arms.

The spinal cord carries all the messages to your lower extremities so central cervical stenosis has the ability to impact your lower body functions. In severe cases the spinal cord is having so much pressure exerted on it that the communication to your lower body is affected.


Cervical spinal stenosis can be caused by a herniated disc or some type of bone spur. A herniated cervical disc will have the nucleus pulposus breaching the annulus wall.

These seldom heal on their own but the symptoms are many times more intermittent allowing people to think that the problem has gone away.

cervical spinal stenosis, possible causes of neck pain, cervical nerve damage

Here is an MRI scan of a normal cervical spine. The person is facing left and you can see the individual vertebrae. Just to the right of the vertebrae is the spinal cord that you can see starts from the brain up top. All the discs are normal with no nucleus material impinging the spinal cord.

You can think of the nucleus as a balloon held between your hands. When you squeeze your hands together unevenly the balloon bulges out to one side. When you ease up on the pressure the bulge retracts. The nucleus acts the same way.

When the neck posture is at the wrong angle additional pressure is placed on the nucleus causing more to squeeze out of the annulus wall. The bulging nucleus material puts pressure on the nerve or spinal cord and that is when we experience pain. When we change our neck position the uneven pressure is reduced so the nucleus will partially retract and lessen the pressure on the nerve or cord.

Below is another MRI scan of a person also facing left. In this scan you can clearly see 3 herniated discs bulging out and impinging the spinal cord. The upper one is the most extreme.

cervical spinal stenosis, possible causes of neck pain, cervical nerve damage

Bone spurs can be congenital but are typically the result of aging and are seen in people beginning at age 50. Bone spurs can encroach on the nerve root, the spinal cord or both. The symptoms are more persistent with bone spurs since they are always there and only continue to get larger.

Diagnosis for Cervical Spinal Stenosis

A doctor will review your medical history, symptoms and conduct a neurological exam. The exam will help to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms. X-rays, MRIs and CT (Computed Tomography) scans are many times performed as well.

X-rays will be able to rule out other possible causes but are not detailed enough to prove the cause of cervical stenosis. MRIs are great for viewing soft tissue and are the best tool we have to determine if a herniated disc is the cause. CT scans are best to view bones and help to determine if bone spurs are contributing to the cause. Myelography uses a dye injected into the spinal column and visually enhances areas where a nerve or the spinal cord may be impinged.

There are numerous ways to treat cervical spinal stenosis. These range from conservative to more aggressive surgical procedures. If a herniated cervical disc or cervical degenerative disc disease is causing the stenosis the best conservative treatment is non-surgical spinal decompression. In particular I would research and consider the DRX9000 Spinal Decompression machine.

Cervical stenosis is often visible on MRI and CT scans before symptoms occur.

I encourage you to see your physician if you have any of these symptoms. You have a better chance of responding to a conservative treatment if you get an early diagnosis.

Educational Videos

These 3D animations with voice-over are to help you better understand your condition and the possible course of action to treat it.

The simple to use interface will allow you to see and hear the explainations of many conditions, inculding their treatments. The Amazing Spine area will explain the human spine and each vertebrea's affect on the internal organs and nerves.

To your better health!

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