The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, beginning immediately underneath the skull. The top vertebra is the atlas (C1), which sits on top of the second vertebra, the axis (C2). These two vertebrae are different from the rest of the bones in your spine because they rotate, allowing you to tilt and turn your head. Most cervical spine problems happen below the C2 level, fortunately.
The cervical spine performs several important functions. It supports your skull and brain physically, while allowing all that complicated movement, and contains the nutrient arteries and veins that supply blood to this vital organ. It’s also a crucial part of your central nervous system: It protects the spinal cord and nerves that pass through your neck as they communicate information to and from your brain.
The cervical spine can be affected by spinal degeneration that occurs as we get older. Sometimes small bony growths, called osteophytes or bone spurs, can develop on the vertebrae, interfering with regular movement and putting pressure on nerves. This can cause neck and shoulder pain radiating down the arm.
Years of wear and tear on the discs between the vertebrae in your cervical spine can cause them to extrude or herniate, also causing pain and impeding the effective function of nerves or the spinal cord.
Any problems with your cervical spine can affect your whole nervous system, causing pain, tingling, loss of sensation, and even paralysis in other parts of the body, so it’s important to get symptoms checked as early as possible.
Dr. Oshtory conducts a full physical examination of your neck to pinpoint the cause of the problem, including checks on your reflexes, strength and sensation in your upper body. He may order further tests to examine the internal structures of your cervical spine, such as X-rays, an MRI scan, or CT scan. He then advises on the best course of treatment to meet your individual needs. These treatments range from physical therapy, to injections to surgeries. Sometimes a small surgery can be done on an outpatient basis to relieve your symptoms. Sometimes it entails several levels of reconstruction done anteriorly and posteriorly. Dr. Oshtory regularly performs the simple decompressive surgeries as well as the complex reconstructions, always using the most minimally invasive techniques, depending on what is needed in each individual case.