Non-degenerative and degenerative cervical spine issues may include pain and other symptoms from:
Spinal joint disease
The upper spine, originating at the base of the skull, is called the cervical spine. The spinal cord is located within the bony anatomy of the spine and forms a protective barrier around the cord as it courses down from the brain out to the arms and legs. The spinal nerves exit from the cord at multiple levels throughout the entire spinal column to conduct the various sensory and motor functions for the entire body. These various exit levels are called intervertebral foramen. The spinal bones or vertebrae are separated by shock absorbers called intervertebral discs.
If the nerves exiting through the intervertebral foramen are compressed or pinched, this may result in radiating pain, numbness, weakness or loss of function in the limbs that are connected to these nerves. Compression of these nerves may be caused by extra bone growth around the foramen (bone spurs), injury or bulging of the disc (shock absorber), instability of the cervical spine causing shifting of the bone, and bursting or herniation of the disc compressing the nerve.
There is a varying level of neck pain and need for concern with these non-degenerative and degenerative cervical spine symptoms. Those symptoms that should be addressed in an expeditious manner would include weakness in the arms and hands, persistent tingling in the same areas, and constant neck pain.
Your physician will conduct a thorough examination to include history and physical testing to assess the complaints. Typically included will be X-rays, MRI or CT scans that will assist the physician by providing a deeper and more definitive look at the surrounding soft tissues in the area.
As with low back problems, most neck pains will resolve with a combination of adequate rest, activity modification and time.
As an adjunct to the above mentioned approach, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine or corticosteroids may be used to further reduce the inflammation and swelling. This reduction in inflammation will therefore reduce the amount of pressure on the nerves. Physical Therapy is often very helpful in pain reduction, regaining muscle balance, flexibility and strength. Patient education is also very important in helping to minimize the incidence of recurrence.
In more serious cases the amount of nerve compression will result in significant pain, numbness, and or weakness of the arm and hand. Typically this occurs only on one side or the other. In an effort to alleviate this problem, surgery may be the only alternative to keep this compression from progressing and developing into an irreversible damage to the nerve. Most surgical approaches involve removing excess bone,or bulging discs, fusion of bones from one level to another to prevent motion or instability at this segment. Advanced surgery may include disc replacement.
Surgery, if performed for the right indication, can be very effective in certain instances but should not be always considered a complete cure. It is very important to have a full understanding of your condition and speak at length with your physician to understand the risks and complications.
For more information on how the back arthritis specialists at Cary Orthopaedics can help you, contact us today at 919-467-4992 for an appointment!
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