Your cervical spine is one of the most important areas of your spine. Many people understand this from the perspective of safety because they know that when a person dives into a shallow pool or body of water, it’s possible to hit the head on the bottom with a lot of force. This force can then fracture parts of the cervical spine, which may lead to paralysis.
Another safety fact most people understand is that if a person has been injured in the head and neck area – or even appears to be – it’s important not to move them without a cervical collar. The cervical collar stabilizes this area of the spine to prevent additional injuries to this area, which can also lead to paralysis.
Although cervical spine injuries of this magnitude do occur, they don’t occur very often. However, there are other types of spine injuries, like spinal stenosis, that can make life miserable – without the paralysis.
Understanding cervical spine anatomy is key to these disorders
The cervical spine is composed of seven cervical vertebrae that sit on top of one another like toy Lego blocks kids use to build houses. The difference is that the vertebrae are not solid and they are shaped differently. The body of the vertebrae is rounded in the front with an attaching rounded area in the back. One part of the vertebrae in the back is called the spinous process. This part can be felt when you reach back behind yourself to feel your spine.
There are other parts of the vertebrae such as the lamina which forms a joint with the vertebrae that lies on top or below it. Each vertebrae has two laminar joints.
In the very center of the vertebrae is the spinal cord. From the spinal cord spinal nerves emanate outward, passing through a small hole of the vertebrae first and then going out to the muscles and parts of the upper body. There are arteries and veins that travel in the same region as the spinal nerves, too.
Cervical spine anatomy
It’s easy to understand why paralysis occurs in those extreme situations, and why paralysis doesn’t occur in others when you know a little anatomy.
If the vertebral body collapses and there’s a force that crushes the spinal cord, the person will end up with paralysis. If calcifications are growing on the vertebral body, they start out small and give symptoms such as hot or cold sensations, vibrations, numbness, pins and needles or weakness of the muscles of the shoulder, arm, hand, chest, or upper back. The larger the calcifications grow, the greater the symptoms will be.
Why cervical spine pain occurs ?
Cervical spine pain is another one of the symptoms that may occur when there has been a growth of calcifications. This occurs because whenever a nerve is compressed or smashed – even in the smallest fashion, the nerve will cry out and release pain signals. There are pain receptors found everywhere in the body that give our brain the opportunity to let us know that something is wrong. It’s up to us to pay attention to these signals and do something about them.
Eventually the calcifications could grow to the point where they block the nerve flow of the spinal nerve coming out from the vertebrae. This is similar to poking a hole in a garden hose in your yard. Instead of water coming out from the hose, there are symptoms such as hot and cold sensations, vibrations, pain, numbness, pins and needles.
Cervical spine treatment depends on the problem
The key is to clean up the calcifications from the vertebrae so that the nerve can send its signals down the nerve as it is supposed to.
But this is only the treatment for cases where the calcifications have grown. There are other cervical spine issues such as disk collapse, vertebral body collapse, and minor nerve impingement problems that have their own type of treatment.
Cervical spine exercises may relieve pain
Some types of cervical spine treatment can be relieved with non-surgical care. For example, if the damage of a nerve compression has just started, then it’s possible to do certain types of exercises which can relieve the compression. Osteopathic physicians and chiropractors have ways to move the spine physically with their hands so the compression can be relieved. This will then relieve the pain and start the healing process. It’s a slow process but it works in many cases.
The best recommendation you can receive is to always seek care after you begin feeling pain in the cervical spine, numbness, pins and needles or heat/cold sensations.
Filed under: Spinal Stenosis