Also known as the neck region, the cervical spine contains nerves, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. It’s incredibly delicate and the home of the spinal cord, which sends messages from the brain to control various aspects of the body.
The cervical spine is also exceptionally strong and flexible as it allows the neck to move in different directions. Its main duties are to protect the spinal cord, support the head and the way it moves, and facilitate the flow of blood to the brain.
Conditions of the Cervical Spine
Some of the most common conditions of the cervical spine include:
Cervical spondylosis refers to the age-related wear and tear on the spinal discs in your neck. It is a very common condition that worsens with age and may lead to symptoms such as pain and stiffness in the neck, loss of coordination, difficulty walking, and/or loss of bladder or bowel control.
Cervical myelopathy arises when there is a compression of the spinal cords in your neck. It often causes symptoms like pain, numbness, and weakness in the neck and coordination challenges. Although it can’t be cured, this condition can be improved with treatment.
Cervical stenosis is when your neck’s spinal canal narrows as a result of trauma or degenerative changes. With this condition, you may not experience any symptoms or symptoms such as pain, tingling, and muscle weakness that worsens over time. Cervical stenosis can lead to cervical myelopathy.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs to a pinched or irritated nerve that leads to symptoms such as sharp pain, numbness, or weakness that radiates into the chest or arm. Fortunately, this condition often improves on its own without treatment.
How are Cervical Spine Conditions Diagnosed?
If you believe you have a condition related to the cervical spine, a doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms and performing a physical exam. They may also perform imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans, EMGs, or MRIs to determine your exact diagnosis.
How are Cervical Spine Conditions Treated?
Most cervical spine conditions can be treated through conservative measures such as medication, physical therapy, and careful monitoring. However, in some cases, surgery may be a viable option. Surgery is typically recommended if conservative measures are ineffective, you are facing balance or walking challenges, or there are progressive neurological symptoms that involve your arms or legs.