Next, to low back pain, neck pain leads the list of common spinal complaints. It has been estimated that approximately 20% of the population is suffering neck pain symptoms at any given time. Furthermore, it has been predicted that as many as 80% of us will have to deal with neck pain at some point in our lifetime.
The prevalence of neck pain is understandable. The cervical spine is a relatively short segment of bones that carry the responsibility of carrying the head. Seeing that the average head weighs about 8 pounds, that is a lot of strain to put onto just a handful of bones and discs. All it takes is daily living to eventually experience symptoms like weakness, numbness, and chronic neck and head pain.
When neck pain becomes problematic, it is advantageous to consult with an experienced physician. Imaging, along with a thorough physical examination of the neck and general health, provides valuable information that culminates in an accurate diagnosis. When we understand what is causing neck pain, we can then attend to that original problem with proper care.
To properly care for neck pain does not necessarily mean surgery. Usually, non-surgical therapies such as anti-inflammatory medication (or injections), physical therapy, and rest are recommended as early forms of treatment. In some cases, quality of life is restored only through surgery.
Historically, the standard of surgical care for chronic neck pain was to fuse two or more vertebrae together. Spinal fusion techniques are still employed today and continue to be safe and effective in some cases. However, when we can, our preference is to resolve compression and degeneration without inhibiting future range of motion. This can be achieved with cervical disc replacement or cervical disc arthroplasty.
Cervical disc arthroplasty is a minimally invasive procedure that restores proper space in between vertebrae by removing the impaired disc and replacing it with an artificial structure that mimics the characteristics of a natural disc. Studies on cervical disc replacement suggest excellent patient outcomes in the right circumstances.
Dr. Todd Albert is the Medical Director of the world-renowned Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. In our practice, training and experience are complemented by the friendly care that caters to each patient. Call 212-606-1004 for more information on cervical disc replacement and other treatment options for chronic neck pain.