A narrowed, irritated, or compressed spinal canal in the neck area can cause a variety of problems in the upper extremities. One or both arms, shoulders, or hands may feel weak or not seem to function properly. It can be harder to button a shirt or hold onto things, especially smaller objects. Pain from the neck to the arms and hands may be present, as well as numbness. Even the legs and feet can be affected, causing unsteadiness and the need to hold onto something while walking. It may feel like the brain doesn't quite know exactly where the arms and legs are located in the space around the body. More extreme cases can result in decreased bowel and bladder control.
Depending on your exact symptoms and examination results determined by your orthopedic spine doctor, a diagnosis of cervical (neck) spinal stenosis, cervical spinal myelopathy, or cervical spinal radiculopathy are most likely. These conditions tend to come on gradually because narrowing or irritation in the spinal canal is most common with age-related factors. This includes arthritis, bone spurs, and years of poor posture or other activities that stress the spine. The conditions can also be brought on or exacerbated by trauma such as crashes or serious falls.
Treatment for problems caused by spinal canal narrowing, irritation, and compression is not usually surgical. Medication, physical therapy, injections, posture coaching, activity modification, and ice can relieve symptoms. More pronounced symptoms will need more intervention and for longer, so see your doctor sooner if possible. An orthopedic spine specialist will be able to properly diagnose and treat neck and back problems with great expertise. He or she will approach your concerns with a caring attitude and have the knowledge to create a treatment plan with options for your lifestyle and needs.