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Cervical Spinal Stenosis


Cervical spinal stenosis

is narrowing of the spinal canal in your neck. Your spinal canal holds your spinal cord. When your spinal canal narrows, it may put pressure on your spinal cord. Cervical spinal stenosis is a chronic (long-term) condition.

Vertebral Column

Common signs and symptoms:

You may have no signs or symptoms. If your spinal canal is very narrow, your signs and symptoms may be worse. You may have any of the following:

  • Neck pain and headaches
  • Burning pain that shoots from your shoulder down your arm
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in your arm or hand, which may spread to your legs
  • Trouble urinating or having a bowel movement
  • Trouble with balance and walkingTrouble holding your neck up or trouble standing up straight

Seek care immediately:

  • 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.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

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


  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling and pain. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • A steroid injection may be given to reduce inflammation. Steroid medicine is injected into the epidural space. The epidural space is between your spinal cord and vertebrae.
  • A nerve block is an injection of numbing medicine. You may need a nerve block if your pain is not going away, or is getting worse.
  • Surgery may be needed to widen your spinal canal or decrease pressure on your spinal cord. Surgery also may be done to fix damaged or injured vertebrae in your neck.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Go to physical and occupational therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. An occupational therapist teaches you skills to help with your daily activities.
  • Apply heat on your neck for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Heat helps decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Apply ice on your neck for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel before you apply it to your skin. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Avoid certain activities. Some activities may worsen your condition or cause more injury. Do not ride motorcycles or horses, climb ladders, or play football or other contact sports. Ask your provider which activities are safe for you to do.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

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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.

Learn more about Cervical Spinal Stenosis (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.