When Surgery Makes Sense for Chronic Neck Pain

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Neck pain on its own is bad enough, but if the discomfort is spreading down into your arm and hand, it may be time to take action. Here’s a look at when surgery may be a good option for your neck pain.

Your neck pain started off as an occasional issue that flared up from time to time. These days, the pain is more constant and you’re even experiencing symptoms, such as numbness and tingling, that are traveling down into your arm and hand.

This scenario is all too familiar for millions of Americans — 80% experience neck pain at least once in their lives and up to half of people deal with the problem annually. On a global scale, neck pain is the fourth leading cause of disability.

As a board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Ali H. Mesiwala is doing his part to relieve the burden of neck pain through advanced spine surgeries that help our patients get back to active, pain-free lifestyles.

The many roads to neck pain

Your neck is made up of seven vertebrae that are separated by intervertebral discs that provide cushioning, support, and shock absorption. Surrounding these spinal structures are connective tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

So, when you have neck pain, it can involve one or more of these different areas. Some of the more common neck issues include:

  • Muscle strain
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated cervical disc
  • Cervical spinal stenosis
  • Acute injuries like whiplash

Unfortunately, many of the items on this list are degenerative and progressive, which means you can’t sit around and wait for things to get better.

Why the neck pain and other symptoms?

Your neck contains eight pairs of nerve roots that exit your cervical spine, and these nerves are often in the line of fire when it comes to neck issues. For example, if a disc in your neck is starting to flatten and bulge, disc materials can irritate a nearby nerve.

Or, if there’s a narrowing in your cervical spine due to degenerative processes — a condition called cervical spinal stenosis — it presses up against the nerves.

In some people, bone spurs form on the cervical vertebrae, and they irritate the nerves.

In each of these scenarios, something is compressing neural structures in your neck, which can lead to localized neck pain as well as pain that travels down your arm and into your hand. Commonly, it’s not pain that radiates into your arms and hands, but symptoms like numbness and tingling.

Finding relief from your neck pain and other symptoms

Now let’s get to the focus of this blog post about when surgery may be a good idea for neck pain. To be sure, surgery is a decision that only you can make, but we do want to give you some guidelines.

When we discuss surgery, we’re referring to techniques that decompress the nerve entrapment to relieve your symptoms, such as artificial disc replacement surgery or cervical decompression and spinal fusion. 

We often recommend one of these surgeries for patients who:

  • Fail to respond to conservative measures, such as physical therapy and interventional injections
  • Have nerve compression in the spinal canal
  • Have symptoms that are progressively getting worse

We want to assure you that you’re in excellent hands here at our practice, as Dr. Mesiwala has extensive experience with these procedures. As a bonus, he often performs neck surgeries on an outpatient basis, which means you can rehab in the comforts of your own home.

If you suspect that your neck issues may benefit from surgery, please contact one of our offices in Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, or Rancho Cucamonga, California, to schedule a consultation with Dr. Mesiwala.