Cervical spine stenosis, bowel and bladder problems
by a1ab, Dec 12, 2004
I am a 49-year old female diagnosed by CT scan with severe cervical spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, and degenerative disk disease affecting C4-C5 and C5-C6. Shortly after diagnosis, I lost my job and insurance so I have had no treatment.

In April of this year, I lost the use my right arm for a period of about 6 weeks. This caused pain in my ring and little fingers and made them cold to the touch, so I suspect the problem involved a third level of my neck (C7-T1), as I have done some research on the issue. I had no insurance/money to see a doctor, and still do not have a neurology appointment scheduled until February, 2005.

In the meantime, I have had near-constant pain in my neck, shoulders, and arm, plus pain in fingers, legs, hips, back, and feet, with headaches, fatigue, depression, etc. I now occasionally lose control of my bladder and have developed constipation for almost the first time in my life. I sometimes can't tell I need to urinate unless I'm standing up, and then it's often very urgent or even too late.

I can find no information on the bowel and bladder problems caused by cervical stenosis. Could my bowel/bladder problems be caused by stenosis? Is it safe to wait 2 more months to see the neurologist? I tried to hurry the neurology appointment by going to the emergency room, but the ER doctor practically made fun of me for going there. I am in an indigent health care program because this has caused problems with working, so I can't just go to any doctor. Can my problems become permanent, or can they be fixed through surgery?
by CCF-Neuro-M.D.-CS, Dec 14, 2004
The bowel and bladder symptoms could be related to your cervical stenosis. If you are unable to void urine you should immediately go to the emergency room for treatment. This could indicate spinal cord compression, and is typically associated with leg weakness. If that is the case it should be treated as soon as possible. Without examining you and reviewing your history I cannot determine if all of your symptoms are secondary to the cervical stenosis or if surgery is necessary. In some patients surgery is performed to prevent the progression of neurologic symptoms, and to hopefully regain lost functions. Good luck.
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Member Comments (3)
by Tamo7, Jan 02, 2005
email me.  We have some things in common....neck and shoulder pain.  I am wondering how it is going.  I am going in for a second cervical fusion Jan 24.  I have c4/5 and c5/6 done in Sept 02 and now I am having c6/7.  I am not certain it will help but cannot live with the pain, so am trying one more surgery as a last resort.
by Nancy 1019, Jan 09, 2005
Please see my other posts. After an injury ,I lost sensation in my bladder and bowel, for a while, then had terrible bladder spasms. At times, I could not empty my bladder - had to really push. My bowel function totally shut down for several weeks - thought I was not going to make it. - but now has evolved into chronic constipation. The bladder is okay.
I had so many of the symptoms you describe. My final diagnosis has been adult tethered spinal cord ( congenital).
All of this bladder/bowel dysfunction, pain every which a way, is classic for tethered cord. My cervical/lumbar discs were perfect in 1998 ( at injury), but I am now having deterioration in lower cervical area. And a fluoroscopic study showed that my neck motion is locked at C-1, C-2, C-3. ( Is it because the dura has too much tension ????) So the entire motion of the neck is affected, and there is much strain on the lower cervical vertebrae and discs. Plus, the vertebrae are unstable. A real mess - BUT I had no neck injury - only a pelvis / sacrum injury !!!

According to Dr. Mehmet Selcuki ( Is a filum terminale with a normal appearance really normal.Childs Nerv Syst. 2003 Jan;19 (1):3-10 ) the gold standard for tethered cord diagnosis is urodynamic studies. Sometimes the conus and filum look normal, but the cord is tethered possibly because of decreased elasticity in the filum. ( Special cell studies - immunohistochemical - out of Duke are supporting Dr. Selcuki's findings. He has kindly answered many of my questions about this little known , but maybe quite common, disorder. ) Plus, lumbar MRIs must go down the entire sacral canal. Additionally, an abdominal MRI may fbe necessary to evaluate the ventral part of the sacrum. I have abnormalities there, as well, which appear to be affecting the dura.  Please read as much as you can about
spina bifida occulta and tethered cord. Maybe there is an expert on this at the Cleveland Clinic ??