How to Know Whether You May Require Cervical Surgery

Dr. Sandro LaRocca MD of New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C.

Your cervical spine, more commonly referred to as your neck, is made up of seven vertebrae that start at the top of your shoulders and rise to the base of your skull. It serves a multitude of purposes, including protecting the spinal cord, enabling movement, and much more. While not all neck discomfort is serious, cases of isolated neck pain affecting neurological function may require the need for cervical surgery. Here, New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C. outlines the cervical spine procedures that we offer, as well as the common symptoms and conditions they treat.

When to Consider Cervical Surgery

Supporting the weight of the head, the neck is flexible yet susceptible to conditions or injures that cause pain or diminish range of motion. According to Dr. Sandro LaRocca of New Jersey Neck and Back Institute, P.C., neck pain is categorized by discomfort in the neck region, with symptoms such as:

  • Trouble with mobility of the head
  • Headaches and/or migraines
  • Muscle tightness, strains, and/or spasms
  • Aching or soreness after the head has been in the same position for an extended period

Although neck pain can be uncomfortable, not every instance requires cervical surgery. In some cases, over-the-counter prescriptions, ice and heat therapy, steroid injections, or other modalities can help. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with any of the following neck pain conditions, then cervical surgery might be the right option for you:

 Bone Spurs

Bone spurs are growths that form along a bone’s perimeter, typically in or near joints. If they affect the bones in your neck, spurs could result in severe discomfort and a loss of mobility.

Degenerative Disc Disease/Cervical Spondylosis

Degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine can be used interchangeably with the term cervical spondylosis. With age, overuse, or injury, the spine’s discs and joints naturally degenerate, and as a result, discs can bulge and bone spurs may form. These changes can lead to compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots, causing a cervical spondylotic myelopathy or radiculopathy.

Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy (CSM)

CSM is a clinical syndrome caused by compression of the spinal cord in the cervical spine.  It is characterized by neurologic dysfunction, which may consist of the following:

  • Weakness, numbness, and tingling in the arms or legs
  • Loss of coordination
  • Gait disturbance
  • Deterioration of the ability to control bowel and bladder function

Compression of the spinal cord may be the result of numerous causes, including spondylosis caused by degenerative disc disease, as well as herniated discs or even trauma.

 Herniated Disc(s)

Spinal discs serve as the soft cartilage cushioning between the vertebrae or bones of the spine.  A herniated disc, sometimes referred to as slipped disc, is the result of a rupture of the disc, which can potentially compress the spinal cord or spinal nerves. In the cervical spine, disc herniations can result in neck pain, radiculopathy, or myelopathy (CSM). They can be caused by degenerative disc disease but also by various types of injury, ranging from sports incidents to car accidents and falls.

 Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is categorized by radiating pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness into the extremities. It can originate at any point on the spine, including the neck. Compressed nerves in the spine are the cause, and the condition can result in severe complications if left untreated.  

Cervical Spinal Stenosis

Stenosis can occur anywhere along the spine, including the neck, where it is called cervical stenosis. The condition results from the narrowing of the spinal canal due to natural degeneration, damage from trauma, or spinal tumors. Severe cases can cause myelopathy, a condition defined by neurologic consequences from spinal cord compression. While surgery may be recommended based on symptoms alone, we urge that you visit the emergency room or seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • A loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Severe numbness of the inner thighs, the back of the legs, or in between the legs
  • Weakness that spreads to one or both legs, making it difficult to walk or stand

Our Cervical Spine Procedures

Offering consultation and expertise at our New Jersey clinics in Lawrenceville, Toms River, North Brunswick, and Mount Laurel, Dr. LaRocca regularly performs cutting-edge procedures on patients’ cervical spines, including minimally invasive procedures. Recommended surgical options may include:

  • Laminoplasty: This procedure addresses spinal compression by eliminating its source. Common causes of compression include bone spurs, natural wear and tear, and more.
  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion: This minimally invasive procedure relieves unnatural pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, sometimes caused by degenerative disc disease and disc herniation. First, the herniated or degenerated disc is removed. Then, a fusion is performed, which uses a bone graft to permanently connect the vertebrae above and below the removed disc.
  • Cervical laminectomy and fusion: By removing a section of bone in the back of a patient’s neck, a cervical laminectomy procedure alleviates spinal pressure in individuals with spinal stenosis. In cases of multilevel cervical laminectomy, it is often combined with a fusion to prevent post-operative instability, discomfort, and deformity. Fusions stabilize affected vertebrae by connecting them with a bone graft, mimicking the natural healing course of broken bones.

To learn more about these procedures or to determine if cervical surgery is right for your diagnosis, contact the New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C. team today.

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*We are located in New Jersey, USA and do not provide medical advice via email or phone. We do not accept Medicare or Medicaid, however we do participate with commercial insurance as an out of network provider.

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