Neck surgery is a common invasive treatment for a wide range of abnormal spinal conditions, regardless of whether these irregularities actually cause pain or not. Chronic neck pain is a trial for any person to endure and will slowly wear down even the most stoic of patients. Individuals who suffer with incessant unresolved back and neck pain will often accept the seeming inevitability of spinal surgery as a last chance for curing their symptoms, despite the risks and poor curative results usually offered.
Neck surgery is the second most common type of spinal procedure, only falling in popularity to lumbar surgeries. The neck is a common location for all manner of operations, including discectomies, laminectomies and spinal fusions. Meanwhile, the very same diagnosed conditions most often treated with these procedures are scientifically proven to lack correlation with the incidence of neck pain. In other words, many conditions treated surgically are not even the underlying reason for pain to exist. This goes a long way in explaining why so many procedures fail so badly in resolving the symptomatic complaints.
This discussion centers on the diversity of spinal operations geared towards curing neck pain.
No surgical therapy offers truly excellent treatment results for any dorsalgia condition and some procedures demonstrate utterly abysmal results, often leaving the patient far worse post-operatively. It is miraculous to me that vertebral column surgery is still such a popular and practiced modality, since very few patients are actually cured of their pain after undergoing any invasive spinal procedure. In fact, the majority of patients will fall into one of several categories, all more unfortunate than the next:
The first category will suffer a recurrence of pain in a related area within a few months to a few years time.
The second category will suffer a recurrence of pain in the exact same area within the same time span.
The third category will enjoy no benefits from the procedure at all and remain unchanged postoperatively.
The last, and worst off category, will suffer a downturn in their condition, deteriorating after the procedure and probably never fully recovering.
Only a minority of operated patients will enjoy positive benefits lasting 7 years or more.
Cervical surgery is best used to treat emergency neck injuries and trauma where the spinal integrity has been compromised. In these circumstances, surgery is completely justifiable, despite a possibly poor operative outcome.
Spinal instability is a serious consequence of significant injury and when this occurs in the neck, the patient’s very life might be at risk. This is one of the best uses for spinal fusion and other drastic neck procedures.
Cervical spinal injuries might also need to be treated to eliminate any threat which might compromise or damage the spinal cord. Obviously, a cervical spinal cord injury is one of the worst case scenarios, since the effects on any patient are likely to be devastating and possibly permanent.
The vertebral bones and intervertebral discs are thinner and more delicate in the neck than in any other region of the spine. There is a huge network of nerves and vascular tissue packed into the neck as well, serving the anatomical needs of the upper body.
Cervical spinal surgery can causes more damage than benefit and many patients are left disabled from operations which may not have even been necessary to begin with. Every day, I get letters from patients with failed back surgery syndrome who are looking for any solution to their dire post-surgical predicaments. Unfortunately, once damage has been done to the delicate spinal structures, there is rarely any effective way of restoring form and function.
I can not stress this point enough: Please so not undergo surgery on your neck, or any other spinal region, without being 100% sure of the validity of the diagnostic theory. Additionally, the procedure should be your last resort after more conservative measures have proven unsuccessful. Make sure that the procedure is actually necessary and has a good chance of curing your pain.
Talk to your surgeon about the risks of back surgery and try to perform some independent study to ascertain the effectiveness of the proposed procedure for your condition. Once you go through with surgery, there is no going back. Don’t take chances. In essence, do your research and take a leadership role in your treatment.