Cervical back surgery

Cervical surgery — surgery for the neck — is typically recommended when chronic neck pain cannot be treated with conservative, nonsurgical treatment. If you are like many patients facing the decision of cervical surgery, several months or longer of conservative treatment have gone by without any relief from the pain and symptoms of your spine condition.

As you begin to research cervical surgery options for your condition, it is important to understand what will happen during each type of procedure. This will help you determine if a minimally invasive option or a traditional open neck surgery is right for you.


Anatomy of the cervical spine

As you learn about the steps of a cervical spine surgery, it can be helpful to understand the cervical spine and what is causing your pain.

The cervical spine begins at the bottom of the skull and includes the seven vertebrae that connect the head to the back. In addition to supporting the weight of the head, the cervical spine is also responsible for the range of motion and flexibility of the neck, making this area of the spine more prone to injury than the less-mobile thoracic spine in the mid back.

There are a number of reasons for cervical surgery, but the most common is the compression of the nerve roots in the neck. While this can be caused by spinal conditions like degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis or other spine conditions, nerve compression is most commonly a result of a bulging or herniated disc in the neck.

These discs rest between each vertebra and act as shock absorbers for the spine. However, if a disc bulges or extrudes into the spinal canal, it can put pressure on the nearby nerve roots. When this happens, a number of symptoms can become present, such as:

  • Chronic neck pain and stiffness
  • Muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms and hands
  • Numbness and tingling
  • The sensation of pins and needles or heat
  • Traveling pain (also known as radiculopathy)

Treatment before cervical spine surgery

These symptoms can often be treated at home with more traditional treatments (like the application of heat or ice, stretching and pain medication), although sometimes other methods of conservative treatment are recommended for pain relief, such as:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage therapy
  • Neck brace
  • Physical therapy

Surgery is often only considered if conservative treatments do not decrease the pain and symptoms after several months of therapy.

Depending on the specific procedure recommended, there are generally two types of cervical surgery available:” open back surgery”:/back_problems/back_surgery/types/open_back/ or minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery, giving patients a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery period.^

To find out if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* — let us help guide you on your next step toward pain relief.