Cervical Degenerative Disease
Cervical Spine Care In Boston MA
Cervical degenerative disease is a term used by doctors to describe the natural degeneration of the cervical spine (upper back and neck) over time. To better understand this, you should know a bit about spinal anatomy.
Your spine is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae. These bones are stacked on top of each other to form your spinal column. The spinal column is your body’s primary upright support. Sitting between each pair of vertebrae is a shock-absorbing disc called an intervertebral disc, which is made of spongy connective tissue. This is designed to protect your spine against the force of gravity and movement (jumping, lifting, running, etc.).
Your cervical spine includes the top seven vertebrae and their associated discs, ligaments, and related structures. This portion of the spine is prone to degenerative problems due to its wide range of motion and complex anatomy. When disc degeneration affects the upper spine or neck, it is referred to as cervical degenerative disease.
Symptoms and Treatment
Degeneration of cervical spinal discs can cause localized pain in the neck. Degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) of the facet joints also causes neck pain. Other symptoms may include pain around the back of the shoulder blades and pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms. Some patients may have difficulty with manual dexterity or walking, too.
If you suffer from unrelenting pain and severe functional impairment, surgery may be necessary. Surgery may involve the removal of degenerated discs and arthritic bone spurs, and possibly fusing two or more vertebrae.
The preferred approach is an anterior (i.e., from the front) interbody fusion. Using the anterior approach, Dr. Paul A. Glazer can perform a complete discectomy and restore the normal disc height and lordosis (curve in the cervical spine) by implanting a carefully sculpted graft. Dr. Glazer is also evaluating cervical disc replacement technologies, which attempt to restore motion and allow neural decompression.
For more information about cervical degenerative disease and your treatment options, call Spine Specialists of Boston at (617) 860-6388.