Cervical disc replacement

According to recent estimations, Americans spend a collective $50 billion annually attempting to relieve their persistent neck and back pains. Combined, they comprise the second most common reason for missed work days nationally, and today, the problems of neck and back pain are reaching younger generations like never before. Blame smartphones. Blame poor posture. Blame “text neck,” as some doctors have taken to calling it.

One of the most uncomfortable diagnoses is that of cervical spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the spinal column in the neck. This leads to compression and squeezing of the nerve roots and the spinal cord itself, which in turn causes pain, numbness and stiffness in the upper body. Though lower back pain seems to be a bit more common among Americans, a diagnosis of cervical spinal stenosis can be even harder to treat. But the good news is there’s hope.

Of course, with any new diagnosis always comes a flood of questions.

What causes stenosis in the first place?

In a word, age. As we get older, the stresses we place on our body aren’t as easily shrugged off anymore, and nowhere is this more true than your spinal cord. Aging in general, especially for folks over 50, can cause your vertebral discs to bulge outward, causing throbbing pain and discomfort. Tissue thickening and tissue breakdown are two side effects of aging as well, both of which can lead to the narrowing of the spinal column.

How can you recognize the symptoms?

Pain is a key sign of neck problems, but pain can be caused by plenty of other issues that aren’t stenosis-related. Some key symptoms include stiffness of the neck, weakness in the upper body, balance problems and, in certain circumstances, a loss of bowel control. Though some of these can be remedied through physical therapy, some may require going under for neck surgery, like cervical disc replacement or disc fusion.

What should you do past self-diagnosis?

It’s important to remember that not every neck pain is related to something serious like cervical spinal stenosis. For more information on the condition, always consult your doctor and schedule a physical exam to inform him or her about your symptoms. The only real way to tell for sure is through a series of imaging test. Ask your doctor about it during your next visit.

Remember that this article is only designed to give out information, not sound medical advice. For that, always see a physician.