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Cervical Spinal Stenosis


Cervical spinal stenosis (CSS) is narrowing of the spinal canal in your neck. Your spinal canal holds your spinal cord. Your spinal cord controls your ability to move. When your spinal canal narrows, it may put pressure on your spinal cord.



  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you and how much to take. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Acetaminophen: This medicine decreases pain and lowers a fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage. Ask your healthcare provider before taking over-the-counter medicine if you are also taking pain medicine ordered for you.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease severe pain if other pain medicines do not work. Take the medicine as directed. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or neurologist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Physical and occupational therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to teach you special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your risk for loss of function. Occupational therapy (OT) uses work, self-care, and other normal daily activities to help you function better in your daily life. OT helps you develop skills to improve your ability to bathe, dress, cook, eat, and drive. You may learn to use special tools to help you with your daily activities. You may also learn new ways to keep your home or workplace safe.

Manage your cervical spinal stenosis:

  • Exercise as suggested by your healthcare provider: Exercise may help keep your condition from getting worse. Exercise can decrease your blood pressure and improve your health. Safe exercise includes walking and using a stationary (not moving) bicycle. It is best to start exercising slowly and do more as you get stronger. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Use ice or heat as directed: Ice or heat packs on your neck may help decrease your pain. Ask your healthcare provider for instructions about how to use ice and heat.
  • Avoid certain activities: Some activities may worsen your condition. Do not ride motorcycles or horses, climb ladders, or play football or other contact sports. Avoid bending your neck back too far, such as when you work on a computer, swim, or stretch. Ask your healthcare provider about these and other activities to avoid.

Contact your healthcare provider or neurologist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your pain does not get better or gets worse, even after you take medicines.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You injure your neck, and your pain and symptoms worsen.
  • You have new or increased trouble walking.
  • You cannot control when you urinate or have a bowel movement.
  • You have more numbness, tingling, or weakness than before.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.