Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults are diagnosed with Cervical Disc Degeneration, an upper spine condition that can cause pain and numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms, and even hands. This patient information is intended to provide you with a better understanding of cervical disc degeneration as well as an overview of certain treatment options.
This is not intended as a substitute for an informed discussion with your physician. If you have questions regarding this information, please write them down so that your doctor or other health care professional can answer them for you.
|The Cervical Spine||Cervical Disc Degeneration|
|Treating Cervical Disc Degeneration||M6-C Procedure|
|Glossary of Terms|
What is the Cervical Spine?
The cervical spine is a complex system of bones, muscles, cartilage, and nerves designed to support the weight of the head while allowing movement in multiple directions. The cervical spine begins at the base of the skull and has seven small bones called vertebrae. It forms a protective pathway for your spinal cord and the nerve roots that carry signals to and from the brain, shoulders, arms and chest.
The Cervical Intervertebral Disc
Between each vertebra is a disc; a shock-absorbing pillow that helps maintain proper spacing, stability and motion within the cervical spine. Each disc has a fibrous, tire-like outer band (called the annulus fibrosus) that encases a central gel-like substance (called the nucleus pulposus). The nucleus and annulus work together to absorb shock, help stabilize the spine, and provide a controlled range of motion between each vertebra.
As we age, the discs in our cervical spine begin to flatten and wear down. When a disc flattens, it forces the vertebrae closer together, which can put added stress not only on the disc itself, but also on the surrounding joints, muscles, and nerves. This process is called Cervical Disc Degeneration, and can lead to several painful conditions.
Conditions Caused By Cervical Disc Degeneration
A Herniated Disc, known as a Herniated Nucleus Pulposus (HNP), occurs when the outer layer of the disc (the annulus fibrosus) tears or ruptures due to stress from the surrounding vertebrae. These tears can cause the disc’s soft central core (the nucleus pulposus) to bulge out or even detach completely, putting pressure on the nearby nerves or spinal cord. This nerve pressure can cause symptoms of pain or weakness in specific parts of the body, depending on which nerves are being compressed.
Bone Spurs (Osteophytes)
Bone spurs, also called osteophytes, are small bony ridges that form on vertebrae as a result of increased stress on these bones. Usually, these spurs cause nothing more than an occasional stiff or sore neck. However, as with a HNP, bone spurs may press against nearby nerves or the spinal cord, causing symptoms of pain or weakness in specific parts of the body.
Symptoms of Cervical Disc Degeneration
Although many people experience Cervical Disc Degeneration as a result of aging, few people experience severe symptoms. Typically, Cervical Disc Degeneration symptoms are mild such as aches or stiffness in the neck and shoulder, as well as occasional headaches. However, Cervical Disc Degeneration symptoms can become severe when nerves are pinched due to a herniated disc or bone spurs. This can lead to painful conditions known as Cervical Radiculopathy and Cervical Myelopathy.
• Cervical Radiculopathy — When spinal nerves are pinched, it can lead to pain, weakness, or numbness in the neck, shoulder, arms, and hands. Oftentimes, this feels like a shooting pain traveling down the arm.
• Cervical Myelopathy — Occasionally, the spinal cord itself is pinched, which can lead to severe pain or weakness in the arms and legs. This pain can cause difficulty walking as well as trouble using the hands.
Your physician will conduct a history and physical examination to understand your symptoms and to determine if you have any nerve or spinal cord impairment caused by conditions related to Cervical Disc Degeneration. Your posture, neck motion, reflexes, muscle strength and areas of pain are all evaluated during the examination. If Cervical Disc Degeneration is suspected, your doctor may order an X-ray or MRI to evaluate your discs, nerves and spinal cord and to help outline a course of treatment.
Current Treatment Options
For many patients, non-surgical or conservative treatments will effectively relieve symptoms of Cervical Disc Degeneration. These treatments may include a combination of rest, physical therapy, or the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications. If pain or numbness persists despite these treatments, surgical treatment options are considered. Surgical treatment involves removing the herniated disc, osteophytes, and bone spurs causing your symptoms; a process called decompression.
Both conservative and surgical treatments are designed to relieve your pain symptoms. Your doctor will determine the best treatment based on the severity of your degenerative disorders.
Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement
If surgical intervention is required, your doctor will remove the damaged disc. The disc space is then filled with a specialized implant called an artificial disc. The artificial disc is designed to restore proper spacing between the vertebrae while preserving motion associated with a healthy disc.
What Happens During Surgery?
During the disc replacement surgery, a small 3-to-4 centimeter incision is made in the front of your neck to access your cervical spine. The damaged disc is removed (discectomy), and the impinged nerve is then relieved (decompression). The M6 cervical disc is then inserted into the disc space using specialized and precise instruments. After the M6 is successfully placed, the incision is closed.
What Can I Expect After Surgery?
After surgery, your doctor will give you guidelines for activities and follow up requirements before you leave the hospital. You may undergo therapy to help heal and strengthen your cervical spine. Follow-up examinations are performed after surgery with your physician to assess your recovery.
The fibrous tire-like outer band of a natural disc that encases the central gel-like substance (called the nucleus pulposus).
A cervical prosthesis that is inserted between vertebral bodies after a degenerated disc is removed. The artificial disc is designed to maintain disc height as well as facilitate motion at the treated vertebral level.
Located between each vertebrae. Helps maintain proper spacing, stability, and motion within the cervical spine. Each disc is comprised of a nucleus pulposus and annulus fibrosus.
Cervical Disc Degeneration
Changes of the spine and its associated surrounding areas (intervertebral disc, spinal joints, etc.) that result from the natural aging process or injury that can limit the spine’s mobility and stability.
A surgical treatment that involves relieving pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots caused by a herniated disc, osteophytes, and bone spurs.
The removal of part or the entire intervertebral disc.
Herniated Nucleus Pulposus (HNP)
A disc herniates or ruptures when part of the central gel-like substance (nucleus) pushes through a tear in the tire-like outer band of the disc (annulus), putting pressure on the adjacent nerves or spinal cord. This migration of disc material beyond the edges of the vertebral body is referred to as Herniated Nucleus Pulposus (HNP). There are varying degrees of HNP that when identified are treated accordingly.
Results from spinal cord compression caused by bony and/or disc protrusions.
A gel-like substance in the center of the disc encased by a fibrous tire-like outer band (called the annulus fibrosus).
Compression of one or more cervical nerve roots. Nerve root compression resulting from a herniated disc or bony spurs (osteophytes).
Vertebrae (Vertebral Body)
Bony segments that form the spinal column of humans. The cervical (neck) vertebrae are the upper 7 vertebrae in the spinal column (the vertebral column). They are designated C1 through C7 from the top down.