The area of the neck is medically known as the cervical area. The eight pairs of cervical spine nerve roots originate in, and branch from, the cervical area of the spinal cord. The cervical spine and its seven protective vertebrae extend from the base of your skull to the top of your thoracic spine, or mid back. The brain sends motor signals down the spinal cord to enable movements of the neck, upper chest, shoulders and arms; sensory information is carried in the opposite direction to input sensation and perception stimuli to the brain.
The cervical spine and its nerve roots are prone to a variety of disorders, including:
- Ankylosing spondylitis – a connective tissue disease in which the vertebrae fuse into one long bone. The fusion process usually begins in the sacroiliac joints. The lumbar spine is usually affected second, and the cervical spine third; then the remaining spine slowly fuses. Symptoms include stiffness and pain.
- Myelopathy – myelin is the covering of nerves and serves to assist transmission of impulses and insulate one neuron from others. Damage to myelin is called a myelopathy. A myelopathy may be caused by degenerative disorders associated with spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal column that pinches surrounding nerves. Symptoms range from slight difficulty while walking to the complete inability to move.
- Spondylolysis – the pars interarticularis (connecting bones between the vertebrae) are malformed due to birth defect or traumatic fracture injury. Spondylolysis most often occurs in the lower lumbar vertebra. However, as a result of trauma, particularly in high impact sports, it may occur in the cervical region. Spondylolysis may lead to spondylolisthesis and spinal canal narrowing with spine nerve roots compression. Neck pain, loss of arm strength and difficulty walking are common symptoms.
- Whiplash – a car accident hyperextends the neck. Results are bulging, ruptured or torn intervertebral cervical discs that compress cervical nerve roots. Symptoms include pain and stiffness.
Symptoms of weakness, pain or tingling of the neck or arms may indicate compression of a nerve root in the cervical region. Conservative treatment including anti-inflammatory medication, heat packs and physical therapy will often achieve symptom relief. However, should these treatments prove ineffective, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our alternative outpatient surgical procedures, which are performed using the latest minimally invasive techniques available in medicine today. Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan.