What Are the Symptoms of Neck Stenosis?

laflor/E+/Getty Images

The symptoms of neck stenosis usually develop very gradually and can include feelings of stiffness, numbness, weakness or pain in the neck, arms, legs or shoulders, along with difficulty walking or bowel incontinence, according to WebMD. Some cases of neck stenosis cause no symptoms; others permanently damage the spinal cord.

Neck stenosis is the narrowing of the space within the vertebrae of the neck, leaving less room for the spinal cord, says WebMD. Changes in the size and shape of the spinal canal due to aging most commonly cause the condition, so it is most common in people over 50 years old. Neck stenosis can result from bone growth when cartilage has broken down, a bulging of the discs or a swelling of the surrounding ligaments. Stenosis only causes symptoms when the growth or swelling is large enough to press on the nerves passing through the neck.

Exercises, physical therapy and pain relievers can treat mild cases of neck stenosis, according to WebMD. More severe cases that cause large amounts of pain or put the spinal cord under high pressure require surgery to widen the canal within the vertebrae. Often, the surgeon fuses vertebrae during this procedure to provide stability.