Degenerative cervical spine conditions affect the neck and upper back. This area is vulnerable to damage because your cervical (upper) spine not only supports your head, but it also facilitates movement between your neck and head. Imagine how many times in one day you twist your head, nod, or lean your head back to laugh—a lifetime of these movements can take its toll.
The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, labeled C1-C7. The first two are called the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). The atlas is the uppermost vertebra and it connects the spine directly to the skull, while the axis acts as a pivoting device for the atlas. Then, at the end of the cervical spine, the last cervical vertebra (C7) connects to the first thoracic vertebrae (T1).
Spinal bones, or vertebrae, are stacked in a column and each one is separated by a roundish piece of padding, called an intervertebral disc. As we age, the discs in the neck and upper back can begin to break apart and press upon spinal nerves, giving rise to a painful degenerative cervical spine condition. Furthermore, another degenerative condition called osteoarthritis –or the wearing away of joint cartilage – can occur in the facet joints of the cervical spine.
When you go to your physician to discuss degenerative spine symptoms, your physician will most likely want to know what symptoms you feel and where these symptoms appear. Below are some common effects of a degenerative cervical spine disorder that you may articulate with your physician:
- Pain – You may feel pain that begins in the neck or upper back and then feels as if it is radiating or shooting down through your shoulders, arms, and hands. If the pain you feel is more concentrated in your hips, buttocks, legs, or feet, make sure to tell your physician, as this may be a sign of a degenerative lumbar spine condition (in the lower back). Likewise, pain in the center part of the spine could indicate a degenerative thoracic spine disorder, which is less common, but not unheard of.
- Numbness – Loss of feeling can occur because a disc that is herniated or bulging may be putting stress on a spinal nerve root, thus limiting the nerve’s ability to transmit the sensation of touch to the area of the body it serves. Since spinal nerves in the cervical spine control sensation in the upper back, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands, numbness in the upper body could be a sign of a degenerative spine disease in the cervical region.
- Tingling – You may get a “pins-and-needles” feeling due to certain spinal nerves being partially restricted. It could also feel as if a limb has “fallen asleep,” which is the result of nerve passageways being constricted or cut off. Tingling in the arms and hands is a very common symptom of a degenerative cervical spine condition.
If your physician has diagnosed you with a degenerative cervical spine disorder and you have found that a conservative treatment regimen is not effective, it may be time to consider contacting the experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI). Our state-of-the-art endoscopic procedures, performed on an outpatient basis, can gently remove tissue fragments in the spine that are pinching spinal nerves – putting you on track to getting your life back. Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan, completely free of charge.