Cervical Spine Stenosis

Cervical spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spaces in the cervical spine leading to compression of the nerves or the spinal cord. The narrowing is usually caused by age-related wear and tear of the structures of the cervical vertebral column, usually affecting patients aged 50 years and more. The patients commonly complain of neck pain but may also complain of symptoms such as numbness and tingling of the arms.

The cervical vertebral column extends from the base of the skull to the upper chest. Apart from providing stability and aiding in the movement of the head, the cervical vertebral column creates a central canal that provides a safe conduit for the spinal cord to travel from the brain down the body.

MRI of the cervical spine in sagittal section showing disc herniations

MRI of the cervical spine in sagittal section showing disc herniations.


The spinal cord carries the nerve transmissions from the brain and helps in moving the body, relaying the sensations from various parts, and coordinating the activities of different organ systems and limbs. The spinal cord gives numerous branches as it descends down the central canal known as nerve roots which unite to form different nerves of the body. The nerves branch out through the intervertebral foramen created by two vertebrae stacked on each other.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis Causes

The cervical spine stenosis results from compression from the spinal cord or the nerve roots as they pass through the cervical vertebral column. The most common cause is the wear and tear arthritis of the cervical spine in the elderly population. The arthritis of the cervical spine may lead to the formation of bone spurs known as osteophytes. The osteophytes may arise from the facet joint or the vertebral body and may compress the neural structures.

Spondylolisthesis is a condition where the vertebrae are not aligned properly over one another. The malalignment of the vertebrae may compress the spinal cord or the nerve roots leading to cervical spinal stenosis.

The intervertebral disk is tissue present between two adjoining vertebrae that cushion the spine and provides stability to the spine. The soft gel-like interior part of the intervertebral disk may at times herniate through the outer annulus fibrosis. The herniated disk in the cervical spine may narrow the space for the spinal cord or the nerve roots causing spinal stenosis.

Ligamentum flavum is a thick band of tissue present behind the spinal cord inside the central canal. Any thickening or buckling of the ligamentum flavum may cause significant narrowing of the canal leading to stenosis.

In some patients, the neural canal may be narrower by birth. These patients are particularly vulnerable to cervical spinal stenosis due to any pathological condition leading to further narrowing. Some genetic conditions like osteopetrosis, Paget’s disease, or achondroplasia may also lead to cervical spinal stenosis. Other diseases implicated in spinal stenosis are acromegaly, ankylosing spondylitis, and fluorosis.

Other causes of cervical spinal stenosis include any injuries to the cervical spine causing collapse or dislocation of the vertebrae or displacement of the fragment inside the canal. All of which may cause narrowing of the space available for nervous tissue.


Depending upon the location of the narrowing in the vertebra, the spinal stenosis may be classified as central, lateral, or foraminal. The central stenosis may be caused by posterior disk herniation, vertebral bone spurs, or buckling of the ligaments of the canal. Lateral recess stenosis is usually a result of facet bone spurs. The far lateral or foraminal stenosis may result from a disk herniation in the foramen or malalignment of the vertebrae.

Pathology of age-related cervical spinal stenosis

With increasing age, the content of the tissue forming the intervertebral disk changes leading to small tears in the disk. This leads to loss of disk height and building of the disk and the posterior longitudinal ligament into the central canal. This may cause buckling of the ligamentum flavum and subsidence of the facet joints. The facet joints try to restabilize the spine by forming new bone leading to bone spurs which may impinge upon the neural structures from behind. The bone spurs formed from the vertebral body endplate may compress the neural structures from the front.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

Patients commonly report symptoms of neck pain and pain in both arms. The neck pain may be described as shooting down the arms or electrical sensations in the arms. Cervical spinal stenosis may also result in a sensation of numbness and tingling in one or both the arms. In cases of a single nerve compression known as radiculopathy, the symptoms may be present only in the distribution of the involved nerve.

In advanced cases, as the disease progresses, patients may complain of the clumpiness of the hands and arms due to weakness and loss of coordination. In some cases of advanced stenosis, there may be loss of bowel bladder control and weakness of the feet and legs.

Cervical Spinal Stenosis Diagnosis

The condition is usually diagnosed by the orthopedic surgeon on physical examination after eliciting an elaborate history of the symptoms. The physician may perform physical examinations to test for the integrity of the nervous system in all four limbs and certain reflexes. The physician may also move the patient’s neck to elicit pain and symptoms. All the physical examination tests are directed to localize the level of compression in the cervical spine.

An X-ray is usually the first investigation of choice to look for bony abnormalities in the cervical spine. A CT scan often reveals more detail of the bony structures compared to an X-ray. The various soft tissue and nervous structures are made visible on an MRI, through which the physician can localize the level of stenosis. An MRI also aids in planning any surgery needed to relieve the symptom of stenosis if needed. 


The treatment of cervical spinal stenosis is usually conservative/non-surgical. Conservative treatment includes physical therapy, pain relief medication, and cold/heat therapy. Cortisone injections may be given through caudal, interlaminar, or transforaminal route. The cortisone injections provide symptomatic relief by reducing inflammation associated with stenosis.

Surgical management usually involves creating more space for the neural structures. Laminotomy involves the removal of part of the lamina (roof of the vertebrae) to create more space. Laminectomy involves removal of the lamina which is often combined with additional measures to stabilize the spine. The vertebral opening for the nerves branching out may be widened by a procedure known as a foraminotomy. During the surgery, herniated disks and bone spurs may also be removed to create more space in the canal. 

Laminoplasty is a procedure in which a hinge is created without removal of bone tissue and the canal is widened. The widened canal may be fixed with wires or special threads. In cases of multiple level stenosis or when any procedure may result in instability of the spine, cervical spine surgery is performed from the front which is often combined with the fusion of two or more vertebrae.

Rasp used in ACDF

ACDF Plate with screws

The images above show a rasp used during the anterior decompression and fusion surgery. The rasp is used to prepare the end plate for insertion of bone cage and subsequent fixation of the vertebrae using the plate shown above.

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Based on 96 reviews
No one likes going to the doctor. But these people make it painless. I go for knees, hips and shoulders. At almost 70 Complete Orthopedics keeps my active life style running smoothly. Whether chasing my Grandson and even surfing again, I highly recommend them!!
Thomas Slavin
15:02 02 Mar 23
Dr. Kuo knowledgeable and competent surgeon- very good experience and more importantly great result.
Joseph McCoy
21:23 25 Feb 23
Dr Vaksha was so kind and helpful. He took extra time with us and explained things so thoroughly. Highly recommend. Office very clean.
Susan Bosinius
20:20 19 Feb 23
Dr Vaksha, is a great doctor very professional knows what he talking about. Treat patient with upmost respect. Thank You
Troy Spencer
16:46 19 Jan 23
Dr. Karkare is an amazing doctor, very caring and attentive, the girl at the front desk is very kind and helpful. .elizabeth .thank you so much .
blanca ventura
21:32 26 Oct 22
Been going to this place before my accident and after I had my knee surgery. So happy how I been treated and how well I am getting. Thank you all and specially Dr. VAKSHA for everything and getting back on track.
Ita Opico
19:01 25 Oct 22
Love this place From the minute I called I was treated kindly. When I arrived The Dr saw me right away he was compassionate and ordered the appropriate tests for me. I came back in for my follow up and had the same great experience.
Christine Rostock
21:28 23 May 22
Dr Vaksha and Dr karkare are 2 of the best orthopedic doctors around my wife Susan had a very serious broken ankle in March of 2019 she didn't think she was going to walk again Dr vaksha did an excellent surgery on her ankle he said it was his toughest he ever did he put a lot of hardware in her ankle and told her she would be alright she made remarkable recovery thanks to his surgery as of now she regained 100 percent use of her ankle she would highly recommend him to anyone. My own experience with Dr karkare has been wonderful he takes his time with you listens to what you have to say and prescribes various treatments and is very caring I would highly recommend him to anyone I would give both doctors a 10 plus rating we are very happy with them the best.
Harry Jones
23:31 19 May 22
Complete orthopedics is a wonderful place to go when you hurt or injured a great staff and wonderful doctors very knowledgeable and helpful I would recommend this place to all of my family and friends that is in me of orthopedic care I give them 10 thumbs up
Wayne Pemberton
17:39 18 May 22
The staff is very professional and helpful. Dr. Vaksha is excellent. He takes time to listen and offer suggestions to help you get better. I’m very thankful and happy to be a patient here at Complete Orthopedics.
Phoenix Rising
19:54 16 May 22
Dr.Karkare is the best. He listens to everything and explains everything I recommend him to everyone. I am so happy he is my doctor.
Myrna James
00:48 13 May 22
Dr.Kuo is amazing very attentive,caring,and passionate and staff is awsome too.Thank you for everything Dr.kuo.
Erick Murillo
23:17 12 May 22
I was in a car accident November 1 I was referred to Dr. Vaksha For shoulder surgery . I he was amazing he made me feel very comfortable and explained everything that was going to happen from surgery all the way through my physical therapy highly recommend Dr. Vaksha
Yolanda Ojeda
19:37 09 May 22
My appointment with Dr. Vaksha was amazing. Dr. Vaksha was very thorough and kind. I would refer this office to anyone who needs a great orthopedic doctor.
John Senechal
19:54 05 May 22
Scheduling my appointment was quick and easy. The staff was super friendly and down to earth. I was seen on time. The appropriate test, “x-rays” were taken before the conversation with doctor, something I really liked, test for analysis and conversation was done upfront. Dr. V had a great personality and was no BS, straight forward diagnosis and a play on next steps. I am happy I found them and would refer them to friends and family.
00:46 03 May 22
I have seen Dr. Kuo two times already and he's awesome along with his staff. Very friendly office and I'm glad to be a patient here.
Camaris A
20:01 28 Apr 22
Amazing team!! Very caring, profesional, and friendly!! Dr. Kevin Kuo, you are the best, very passionate, caring, and helping thank you for getting me better and being so kind to me! Elizabeth you the best thank you for you help always and you big smile and positive actitud❤️🙏🏼
breidy valerio
19:01 22 Apr 22
The staff is truly exceptional, they make you feel comfortable and welcomed. The doctors are amazing,always professional, compassionate and great listeners.
Elizabeth Collado
03:25 09 Apr 22
What a great place! The place is clean and organized.The staff is wonderful. Setting up physical therapy is right there as well.I'm so glad I found this place.
Donna Anne
22:45 05 Apr 22
This was my 1st time breaking something in my 27 years on this planet. I was recommended here by a friend Dr. Vashka helped me from day 1 and still continues to check in on me and my healing ankle. Would highly recommend
tyron davis
16:06 01 Apr 22
Brand new office, same great doctors! Rooms are clean, plenty of parking, physical therapy attached, Dr. Karkare and his staff are awesome. Thank you!
Emily B
02:49 24 Mar 22
Dr.VAksha is the best, I love the way he treats me as his patient, he is caring,understanding and very attentive to my needs
Mirna Caballero
14:53 03 Mar 22
Great staff. Dr. Vaksha is awesome and takes the time to listen to his patients. He is very compassionate. I would highly recommend this office.
Bebe Doyle
01:24 23 Feb 22
After suffering from a severe ankle injury Dr. V was able to help me heal and return back to work completely to a job where I stand for 12 hours a day. The office is very clean and I appreciated the reminders of my appointments via phone call and through text. The patient portal made it easy for me to access all my documents including work notes. The office staff is wonderful and Rebecca was able to schedule me with a busy schedule and awesome at answering all of my questions including referring me to a great physical therapy office. I highly recommend this office to anyone who’s looking for knowledgeable and kind orthopedic office.
Elizabeth Birchwell
21:31 28 Jan 21
The staff here are great, I was seen at the time of my appointment and was well taken care of!
Shaun Berry
18:14 07 Jan 21
They are an excellent practice. The front and back office people are amazing and so helpful. Rebecca is such a kind and understanding person. I had an issue with paperwork and she cleared it right up. Dr. Karkare is very knowledgeable, helpful, and caring.
Matt S.
19:31 18 Nov 20
Rebecca K. - What a true burst of sunshine. Very friendly and definitely an asset to the practice!
Laura Aston
18:17 17 Nov 20
Great experience, the Doctor is nice but the staff is incredible. I worked with Linda, who was profession and assisted me beyond what any person has done at other practices. Complete Ortho should be complimented for having such a person on their staff.I highly recommend this place!!!
Joe Allen
17:26 17 Nov 20
Linda and Becca they are so good ever time I come they are very nice I would tell everyone I no to come to this office..
Barbara Victor
16:45 17 Nov 20
I was rear ended in an auto accident , Dr Vashka was recommended by a friend of mine .I was experiencing Back , neck , and shoulder pain . After a thorough examination and given exercises to do at home , I am feeling much better , and I ended up avoiding surgery . The staff at Complete Ortho is extremely attentive and show great care when making an appointment and are very friendly and i never waited more than 5 minutes for my appointment . So I would strongly recommend Complete Orthopedics for any aches and pains that one might be experiencing.....
Bill Becht
04:44 17 Nov 20
It was the afternoon of Friday Sept. 24. We were in Pt. Jefferson and my wife, Mary Ann, broke her hip. We went to Mather Hospital and it was determined that she would have to have an operation to have it repaired. This would be her third time under the knife in the past year. It just so happened that we were very fortunate enough to have Dr. Karkare, who was on standby, perform the surgery. He put in a rod and two screws in her hip. She spent a few days in the hospital and then went to Gurwin rehabilitee for another few weeks.It has now been almost six weeks and we both worked the election the other day. If it wasn’t for Dr. Karkare’s expertise she never would have been able to work. She is able to walk with a walker and is doing physical therapy three times a week.We can not thank the doctor enough for the compassion and dedication that he puts into his work. It allows Mary Ann do the things that she likes to do, even on a limited basis for a while. I know that with her will, perseverance and the great work that the surgeon performed she will be back on her feet in no time.Sincerely:John V. PlumpEast Northport, NY 11731
Jack Harris
14:36 06 Nov 20
In the year of 2018 I was referred to Dr. Karkare because I was experiencing severe knee joint pain. After exhausting physical therapy and trying to labor through the pain, I had to make a quality of life decision. Total knee replacement was the only viable option. Dr. Karkare made my decision easy as he walked me through the whole process from surgery to recovery.On 12/13/19 ( Friday the 13th) I enter Lenox Hill Hospital in great hands. From the time I entered Dr. Karkare’s office for the first time until now, his staff has been amazing. Andrea the medical coordinator walked me through all the paper work and necessary preparations for the surgery. Courtesy and kind would be an understatement. Dr. Karkare went over and beyond from the wellness checks and phone calls all to assure me that I was important to him. This was the right decision no pain and no limp. Complete Orthopedics should be your choice!
Kenneth Randolph
22:18 25 Sep 20
Dr. Vadshka has a great bedside manner. He really takes his time and explains treatment options.
T Lee
12:33 09 Sep 20
I suffered with pain in both knees for years. My orthopedic doctor kept recommending knee replacement . I fought it for years, as I was just afraid. When I had no choice and could barely walk , it was recommended I see Dr. Karkare. We set up a consultation and my wife and I left his office feeling totally confident and comfortable with moving ahead with the surgery. He explained everything to us, and the office staff set everything up for us and made the process easy. So about one month after our initial meeting I had the first knee done. I was up walking mere hours after the surgery, and on the workout machines the next morning. I went home two days after the surgery, and yes walked my daughter down the aisle at her wedding only one week after the surgery without even a cane! Three months later I had the other knee done and went home the very next day. Dr. Karkare put my fears to rest . I would highly recommend him. His expertise gave me my life back. Thank you Dr. Karkare.SincerelyVito Congro
Ethel Congo
23:58 12 Aug 20
Dr Rhodin really cares for his patients. When I see him he makes sure to review my progress in detail.
Micki Cahill
15:03 08 Feb 20
My mom had a total hip replacement by dr karkare. He is the BEST orthopedic doctor.Her incision is almost invisable.She is going back for her other hip next week. The office staff is the best, love Andrea.You wont find a better doctor.
Ryan Brigandi
21:06 13 Jul 18
There is no better Orthopedic doctor you will find. Broke my ankle three places on a Saturday. Called Dr. Karkare. He had is team ready at the hospital and operated on me within 6 hours after my injury. Now After 3 months of great care by him and his staff, I am walking to normalcy.
Spacecom Tel
04:13 23 Mar 18

My name is Dr. Suhirad Khokhar, and am an orthopaedic surgeon. I completed my MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery) at Govt. Medical College, Patiala, India.

I specialize in musculoskeletal disorders and their management, and have personally approved of and written this content.

My profile page has all of my educational information, work experience, and all the pages on this site that I've contributed to.