How is cartilage related to neck and back pain?

Cartilage is connective tissue, usually located between the joints. It provides a cushion in joints and gives structure to many parts of the body, including the ears and nose. It also forms the spinal discs, which cushion the vertebrae and allow the spine to bend and flex.

Cartilage cells are called chondrocytes. These cells produce the collagen that gives the cartilage structure, along with water and a specific type of protein. There are three types of cartilage, distinguishable by the amount of collagen and other proteins located within the cartilage cells:

  • Hyaline — Occurs in thin, glasslike layers at the end of bones and facilitates smooth movement at the joints
  • Elastic — Firm, yellow fibers that help the ears, larynx and epiglottis maintain their shape
  • Fibrocartilage — Located in the outer wall of the spinal discs and the knee’s meniscus

Conditions caused by cartilage breakdown

Cartilage within a spinal disc is subject to several conditions that can cause them to break down, which may eventually lead to nerve compression in the spinal column. When this happens, symptoms such as acute or chronic neck or back pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness can occur within the shoulders, arms, hands and lower extremities. Spinal conditions associated with deteriorating cartilage include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Foraminal stenosis

Symptoms associated with damaged or degenerating spinal cartilage can be managed with conservative treatment including physical therapy, exercise, therapeutic massage or pain medications. For many patients, however, chronic neck or back pain persists even after weeks or months of conservative treatment. Surgery is usually considered as an option in these cases, but there are significant downsides to highly invasive traditional open back surgery, including a long recovery period and risk of complications like failed back surgery syndrome.

Laser Spine Institute

Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is performed in an outpatient setting and offers patients an easier, shorter recovery^ period and less risk of complication.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost* MRI review to determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.