What is cervical spine surgery?
Your Cervical Spine is made up of seven bones, each called a "vertebra". These connect to the skull above and to the thoracic spine below. The thoracic spine is behind the chest and anchors the ribs.
The upper two vertebrae are made differently from the rest. They allow us to turn our head from side to side. The rest of the cervical spine lets us nod and tilt our head and neck. Inside the cervical spine is a channel which protects the spinal cord, called the "spinal canal".
There is an opening on each side of the spine at each spinal level. A spinal nerve runs through each of these openings and carries nerve impulses to move muscles or carries information to the brain from the sense organs in the skin, muscles, ligaments, and internal organs.
An intervertebral disc sits between every two vertebrae, and cushions the spine. The discs are pads of connective tissue and cartilage (sort of like the tough tissue in the breast bone of a chicken). They act like shock absorbers between the vertebrae.
Sometimes, pieces of the disc can push backward into the spinal canal and press on the nerves or spinal cord. Inflammation from the disc can sometimes irritate the nerves or spinal cord.
Other times calcium deposits can build up on the back of the vertebra and push on the nerves or spinal cord. One of these calcium deposits is called a "spur", the medical name is "osteophyte", which means a bony projection.
Herniated Cervical Disc
If You Have a Herniated Cervical Disc causing neck and arm pain, and if you have not improved from a good program of conservative care, then you might consider having surgery. A herniated disc develops when a disc between the vertebrae breaks down. The back part of the disc becomes weak and the disc pushes backward against the nerves or even against the spinal cord.
Problems can also arise from bone spurs which can develop around the cervical discs. These spurs can pinch the nerves to the arms or can press on the spinal cord itself, causing pain, weakness, or numbness. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove them.
Simple Cervical Disc Surgery
The simplest type of herniated disc is one which is herniated only on one side and is causing pain on that side.
The surgery can be done through the back of your neck (a "posterior approach") or through the front (an "anterior approach"). The anterior approach is usually recommended because it is a relatively more comfortable approach for the patient.