Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease
Cervical degenerative disc disease is a condition that occurs when one or more discs between the vertebrae of the cervical spinal column deteriorates. The gel-like material wears out, in most cases due to aging, losing its cushioning ability. The body reacts by laying down bone to stabilize the spine, known as bone spurs, which can cause pain for the patient in the neck and upper back. Nonsurgical treatment options such as medication, rest, exercise, and physical therapy may be recommended for those with no evidence of nerve root compression or muscle weakness. Additional conservative options may include steroidal injections, and if these treatments fail to provide relief, surgery is considered, in which a discectomy is performed to remove the affected disc(s).
Cervical Degenerative Joint Disease
Degenerative joint disease is the most common form of arthritis, marked by the breakdown of cartilage in joints, and can occur in almost any joint in the body. As degeneration progresses in the cervical spine, those soft areas in the cartilage crack and wear down, exposing bone and causing irritation in the neck. Other symptoms of degenerative joint disease include pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, loss of flexibility, and muscle spasms. In most cases, treatment for degenerative joint disease is non-surgical and can include physical therapy, pain medication, injections, and other modalities. Severe cases may warrant spine surgery.
Cervical Facet Syndrome
Cervical facet syndrome is a form of arthritis that affects the facet joints in the top part of the spine. Facet joints are located on the back of the spine and are responsible for connecting the vertebrae and providing stability. Loss of cartilage and fluid in these joints causes friction between the bones, resulting in bone spurs on the facet joints, which can cause symptoms like neck pain, pain and tenderness at the level of the affected joint, muscle spasms, changes in posture, and loss of motion. For mild symptoms, nonsurgical treatment includes activity modification to reduce flare-ups, physical therapy, or joint injections. Severe cases may warrant spine surgery.
Cervical Herniated Disc
Between each vertebrae in the spine is a structure called the intervertebral disc. An intervertebral disc is made up of 2 parts: the outer, fibrous ring and a gel-like center. When the outer ring is torn, the center can push out and put pressure on other structures in the area, like spinal nerves. Symptoms may include neck or back pain, stiffness or reduced range of motion, sensory changes such as tingling or numbness in the nerve that has been affected, loss of motion, and difficulty sitting or bending. However, if the damaged disc is not pressing on a sensitive structure, the patient may also remain symptom-free. Most pain from a herniated disc will resolve over a few weeks to a couple months with nonsurgical treatment and pain management. If the pain lasts longer or if the pain or damage is severe, spine surgery may be an option, which can include a laminectomy or discectomy in which part of all of the damaged disc is removed.
Radiculopathy is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve, when the nerve roots that exit the spine are damaged or irritated. At each level in the spine, a nerve exits and travels in a specific path to skin and muscles. Because nerves are responsible for pain, sensation, and strength, compression of a nerve in the cervical spine may result in pain, sensation changes, or weakness at different locations of your body. Cervical radiculopathy may lead to weakness or numbness in the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers.
With age, your spinal canal can start to narrow, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. The narrowing is usually caused by arthritis of the spinal column and discs between the vertebrae. When the cervical spine begins to narrow, symptoms may occur in the neck, shoulders, and arms. While some can be born with a narrower spinal canal, most cases are the result of aging and wear and tear on the spine. Other causes of spinal stenosis can include herniated discs, overgrowth of bone or bone spurs, and spinal injuries. For mild cases of stenosis, conservative treatment such as pain medication or physical therapy is recommended. Steroid injections can help reduce inflammation and relieve some of the pain. For more progressive cases, surgical options such as a laminectomy may be recommended to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord or affected nerve roots.
Whiplash occurs when your neck jerks back and forth quickly and violently. Your spine bends past its normal range of motion, which can injure the vertebrae of your cervical spine and damage the supporting ligaments and muscles in your neck. Whiplash can cause pain and stiffness in your neck at the time of injury, or it may not begin until days later. This is a common injury in motor vehicle accidents.