The seven vertebrae (C-1 to C-7) that begin at the base of thes skull are known as cervical spine or simply neck. Cervical spine may be subjected to pain due to disc degeneration, narrowing of spinal canal, arthritis, cancer or meningitis. Cervical spine problems include spondylosis, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, myelopathy and radiculopathy in cervical region.
Spondylosis is one of the cervical spine problems which occurs after a person is 50 plus age. Cervical spondlosis is characterised by neck and shoulder pain and stiffness and headaches that occur at the back side of the head. This disorder can happen when one’s occupation requires repetitive neck movements like those professions that involve painting and decorating. A previous neck injury or family history can also make one susceptible to cervical spondylosis.
Herniated disc in the neck is one of the cervical spine problems whose pain is rather felt in shoulder and the arm and such pain that is sharp elevates when one coughs or sneezes. The pain radiates from neck to the arms. The slipped disc in the cervical region may occur due prolonged wear and tear or due to age when water decreases and minimizes flexibility which leads to ruptures. Besides genetics, sudden motions and sudden strains like lifting an object may also cause damage in cervical disc.
Most commonly neck pain and radiating arm pain occur due to cervical degenerative disc disease which owes itself to the wear and tear of cushioning discs. Some are susceptible to this disorder due to genetic factors. The six gel like cervical discs between the vertebrae absorb shock and prevent the vertebrae from rubbing one another. The disc has tough and flexible cartilage strands called annulus fibrosus whose mucoprotein gel called nucleus pulposus gives shock absorption attributes. The moisture content decreases with age and by the time one reaches 70 years, it is almost dry. The disc is unable to heal itself and this leads to degeneration. This occurs due to obesity and smoking too.
The narrowing of spinal canal in the neck region is known as cervical spinal stenosis. This is one of the cervical spine problems which occurs due to degeneration, wear and tear and due to trauma or injury, smoking and due to poor posture and other structural changes that may alter spina function. When the cervical spinal stenosis causes spinal cord compression it is known as cervical myelopathy. When the discs lose elasticity and resiliency while walking and lifting, loss of disc height occurs which affect space between vertebrae and lead to nerve compression in the neck.
Cervical myelopathy occurs from compression of spinal cord in the neck due to rheumatoid arthritis in the neck, whiplash injury, spinal infections or due to spinal tumour. Cervical radiculopathy occurs due to age related wear and tear.
Cervical spine problems can be treated in early stages with medication, bed rest and by minimizing intense physical activity and by physical therapy. When myelopathy and radiculopathy occurs, surgical intervention might be required so that pain is reduced and spinal stability is enhanced.