The neck is referred to as the cervical region of the spine. There are seven cervical vertebrae, and they are labeled as C1 through C7. This is a common region for people to experience injury, both because this is a very flexible segment of the spine and because the neck, which supports the head, is involved in so many of our everyday movements. Problems with the cervical vertebrae are most common between the C5 vertebra and below, so neck surgery usually addresses the C5 and C6, C6 and C7, and the C7 and T1 (thoracic) segments.
Anatomy of the cervical vertebrae
Between each cervical vertebra, except between C1 and C2, there is an intervertebral disc that serves a protective and connective function. These discs are easily affected by degenerative conditions because they are primarily made up of fibrocartilage, which can lose water content and elasticity as we age. Also, intervertebral discs do not receive any blood supply, which hampers their ability to heal quickly.
Herniated discs and bulging discs are common when spinal degeneration sets in. In addition, the facet joints – which are the connective hinges on either side of each vertebra – are susceptible to facet disease, which is characterized as the degeneration of cartilage around the facet joint. Any of these conditions can cause compression on the spinal nerves that pass through the cervical vertebrae.
Neural decompression neck surgery often focuses on the intervertebral disc or facet joints of the C5 and C6 vertebrae. The spinal nerves that pass through the foramina (openings) of these vertebrae send signals to and from the wrists. Damage to or compression of these nerves can also cause weakness in the forearms and numbness in the fingertips.
Types of neck surgery
Neck surgeries can be categorized as invasive or minimally invasive. While invasive surgeries, also called traditional open spine operations, use a large incision to access the site of damage, minimally invasive surgeries make a small incision and then funnel surgical tools and lasers to the site of damage through a series of thin tubes. Additionally, invasive operations can involve muscle trauma, nerve damage or structural spine alterations. Minimally invasive procedures, however, focus on releasing neural decompression without disrupting any surrounding tissues. As you may expect, the recovery period after traditional open spine surgery on the neck is significantly longer than that of a minimally invasive procedure.
The role of Laser Spine Institute
If you would like more information about the benefits of minimally invasive procedures, don’t hesitate to contact the orthopedic experts at Laser Spine Institute. We use advanced technology to perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures. Let us help you find relief from neck and back pain.