Neck pain and symptoms caused by a cervical (neck) spine disorders are common problems. Half of the population will have evidence of degenerative (wear and tear) changes in their cervical spine by the age of fifty years.
These changes happen because the discs that act as shock absorbers between the vertebral bodies of the cervical spine wear out as we grow older. As the intervertebral discs wear out, they begin to collapse, or prolapse, and become less flexible.
Common causes of neck pain and cervical disorders include arthritis, injuries, and trauma. In some situations neck pain can also be a warning sign of something more serious such as spinal cord compression, a tumor or spinal infection. Any patient suffering from neck, shoulder, head or arm pain should be examined by an Orthopaedic Spine Specialist to determine where the pain originates and what is causing the pain.
There are many instances where non-surgical care for cervical disorders is preferable to surgery. In many instances, non-surgical treatment can provide good to excellent results in many patients. Some examples of non-operative treatments include non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physiotherapy, acupuncture, and epidural or nerve root block.
While the majority of neck problems will respond to non-surgical treatment, you may be in the minority of patients that may benefit from surgical treatment. Decisions about surgery should be made after careful consideration of the potential benefits of the surgery compared to the risks of the surgery and the chance that the operation will not relieve your pain.
The best chance of a successful outcome is when the problem in your neck is clearly defined as the cause of your pain. For example, if your MRI shows a prolapsed cervical disc that is pushing on a specific nerve, and the physical examination confirms this, then you will probably benefit from removal of the disc and decompression of the nerve.