The Cervical Spine
The human spine is divided into three sections:
- the cervical spine or neck (which is made up of 7 vertebrae)
- the thoracic spine (which is made up of 12 vertebrae)
- the lumbar spine or low back (which consists of 5 vertebrae)
The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull and supports the weight of the head. The spinal cord runs from the brain down through the cervical spine, controlling the function of the body's organs and limbs. In between each of the 7 vertebrae of the cervical spine are soft pads or discs which act as shock-absorbers and allow for bending and movement of the head. Each disc is made up of two parts, a soft center called the nucleus and a tough outer band called the annulus.
Cervical spondylosis is a disorder that results from abnormal growth of the bones of the neck and degeneration and mineral deposits in the cushions between the vertebrae. Progressive neck pain is a key indication of cervical spondylosis. It may be the only symptom in many cases. Examination often shows limited ability to bend the head toward the shoulders and limited ability to rotate the head. The goal of treatment is relief of pain and prevention of permanent spinal cord and nerve root injury.
The cervical spinal column is made up of vertebral bodies which protect the spinal cord. Indications Cervical spine disease is usually caused by herniated intervertebral discs, abnormal growth of bony processes on the vertebral bodies (osteophytes), which compress spinal nerves, trauma, and narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal column around the spinal cord.
Symptoms of cervical spine problems include:
- pain that interferes with daily activities
- neck pain that extends (radiates) to the shoulder or arm
- weakness of arms or legs
- numbness of arms, hands, or fingers
Other symptoms of cervical arthritis may include:
- Muscle weakness, with numbness in the neck and arms, perhaps also the hands and fingers
- Tenderness to the touch at the neck itself
- Stiffness which limits movement of the neck particularly noticeable in backing up a car
- Loss of Balance
The surgery is done while the patient is deep asleep and pain-free (general anesthesia). For the neck (cervical spine), an incision may be made either in the back of the neck (posterior cervical) or in the front side of the neck (anterior cervical), depending on the location of the problem.
The bone that curves around and covers the spinal cord (lamina) is removed (laminectomy) and the tissue that is causing pressure on the nerve or spinal cord is removed. The hole through which the nerve passes can be enlarged to prevent further pressure on the nerve. If an intervertebral disc herniation is present, the intervertebral disc is removed. Sometimes, a piece of bone (bone graft) or metal rods (such as Harrington rods) may be used to strengthen the area of surgery.
Other non-operative measures may include:
- Cold compresses
- Massaging the muscles
- Avoiding stressful conditions
- Ultrasound or whirlpool treatments
Depending on the disease present and the surgery performed, mobility of the cervical spine may be limited after cervical spine surgery. Physical therapy is often indicated after surgery.
Other Related Links:
- Cervical Disc Herniation
- Cervical Anterior Fusion
- Cervical Corpectomy
- Cervical Reconstruction
- Cervical discectomy
- Cervical Facetectomy
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