Do you have regularly neck pain or stiffness but also get pins and needles in your hand?
Cervical spinal stenosis is the second most common variety of central canal narrowing.
Recurring neck pain is a real pain in the neck (sic) If you also get pins and needles in your hands or arms you are at another level of discomfort.
There are many things that can produce neck pain and pins and needles including but not limited to the neck, jaw and shoulder.
However, sometimes these symptoms can come from within the spine itself, from something termed spinal stenosis.
Firstly, we need to discuss what is stenosis. A stenosis is an abnormal narrowing in a blood vessel or other tubular organ or structure.
In spinal stenosis we are referring to the narrowing of the spinal canal or neural foramina. The spinal canal is the canal in your spine that the spinal cord travels down, and the neural foramina are openings between the vertebrae where the individual nerves leave the spinal cord.
Understandably, these are very important canals for your spinal cord and your nerves. There is usually plenty of space in these openings for the spinal cord and nerves to pass through but changes can occur that can reduce the space and cause pressure on the nervous system.
The majority of these changes happen over time and thus are more likely present later in life. Usually because there has been a greater time for gravity, poor posture and the traumas of life to have the biggest effect.
These changes may still present earlier in life if the wrong combination of trauma, postures and dysfunction occur and are not managed.
A spinal stenosis can be difficult to differentiate from other cause of neck pain. It has a tendency to be progressive in symptom presentation with acute exacerbations associated with sustained postures or repeated activities.
Saying that, the other causes of neck pain and pins and needles can be triggered by similar means, so it is still hard to differentiate from other causes based on symptoms alone.
In clinic there are several tests we do to differentiate between possible causes of neck pain with pins and needles, specifically in regard to spinal stenosis. Identifying the true cause of neck with pins and needles is critical in management, particularly from a patient expectation point of view.
Are you interested in a simple test you can do at home that can help include or exclude cervical canal stenosis as a possible cause of your pain?
You will need to do this test with your eyes closed, so you’ll either need someone else to help you or a countdown timer.
With a timer or someone else watching a clock for you, place both your hands in front of you in a horizontal position. Bring all fingers tight together, and with your eyes closed, hold the fingers tightly together for 2 minutes. After the 2 minutes either get feedback from your helper or open your eyes and quickly check your finger position. If your fingers have gapped over the 2-minute period it is suggestive of cervical spine stenosis and further investigation is recommended.
If you need help with your neck pain and pins and needles or want to discuss the results of your finger test, contact us on our Facebook page Spinewise – Trevor Chetcuti. We’d love to help.