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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

Spinal Cord Disorders Board Index

Cervical stenosis eventually does cause problems but there are some new surgeries to stop it that don't involve the regular old fusions that cause so many problems.

Some of us are born with narrow spinal canals and then we develop more problems as we age or slip a disk or 2 or develop arthritis. Unlike the people with slipped disks where they have huge amounts of pain(usually but not always), it is quite possible to have no pain and a normal life up until you need to have it fixed....seems to be what is happening to you. You have 2 factors to consider in the spine....the nerves that leave the spinal cord and go out to different parts of the body and the spinal cord itself. If you have a disk or an arthritis bone spur or something pressing on one of those nerves, then you have a lot of pain. However, if your spinal column just keeps closing up and presses instead on your spinal cord, you don't have pain and instead, have numbness. Like the brain, the spinal cord itself has no nerve endings.

It looks like you have the closing up of the canal maybe with some disk involvement. So what to expect? More symptoms of numbness anywhere from your neck down.....feet, legs, hands, fingers. And then you get symptoms of muscles not functioning right like stiffness of the muscles, dropping things, feet that don't feel the ground right so you walk a little like a drunk, weakness in your arms and legs. Theses are the symptoms I had with pain. But the significance of these symptoms are that you are slowly but surely becoming paralyzed.

Since you now know you have the problem, your spinal cord can be monitored over the coming years for spinal cord compression via MRI. They can even measure exactly how much compression there is. The normal cord size is 11-12mms. My cord got down to 6mms before I had surgery.....not intentionally but I had no pain and no one told me about the numbness, weakness and lack of function so I didn't know I had a problem until I went numb from the neck down. So the cord can take quite a bit of compression. Keep on top of the docs to do periodic MRI's and ask how how much compression you've got in terms of millimeters.

When it does get worse, they now have a surgery to re-build the back of the spine and make you a new spinal canal that is much bigger. In the past, they would fuse the neck from the front and then open the back of the spine and leave it open, endangering the cord as it is left exposed. Now, they can rebuild the bone structure and give you an enlarged canal but one that is still closed so the cord is protected. No fusion, no loss of movement.

So don't despair. There is lots of help and newer surgeries being done everyday. Just about everyone here has some kind of stenosis and the surgeries are different depending on how the cord or nerves have been compressed so don't assume you'll end up like them. Besides, the new movement sparing surgeries are just starting to be used more widely. Right now they are mainly in the major medical centers.

Keep an eye on your feet as a gauge as to how much compression you have. Your hands too....some of that problem could be from your spine as well. My feet were going numb for over 10 years. It was stiff legs that didn't want to move forward that tipped me off to it being a spine problem.

And do some research. Learning about the spine is crucial to knowing when to act and what to look for. Physical therapy can be good too to help support the entire spine. And of course come here and join us anytime.

good luck...........Jenny

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