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Glendale Adventist Medical Center
1500 E. Chevy Chase Drive, Suite 401B
Glendale, CA 91206
Ph: (818) 863-4444

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Hazard: Necks on the Loose

Posted on: 09/26/2002
Changes sometimes occur in the neck as we get older. Unless we have neck and shoulder pain or other symptoms, we probably aren't aware of these changes. For example, the bones in the neck called vertebrae commonly form bone spurs. The spurs can be smooth and round but are usually spiked and sharp. The ligaments around the bones may get thicker or thinner.

These changes alter the shape and size of the spinal canal, making it smaller and oval in shape instead of round. This is called stenosis. The canal is the space where the spinal cord passes through the spine from the skull to the low back. Less space for the spinal cord means possible pressure on the cord. Pressure causes neck and shoulder pain. Pressure on the nerve roots as they leave the spinal cord can cause numbness and tingling in the arms. A stiff neck and arm pain are also possible.

The changes of of aging can also affect the way the bones move. The bones may start to slip and slide on top of each other. When one bone moves forward over the bone below it, the spinal canal gets even smaller. The neck becomes unstable.

Surgery may be needed to make the spinal canal larger. The operation is called a laminoplasty. There are different ways to do this operation. A group of doctors in Japan found a way to reattach bones and muscles that were cut during the procedure. The technique can be used with patients who have bone slippage and instability. The results after surgery are the same for patients with and without instability. This method may even hold the spine steady and keep the bones from slipping.

Mamoru Kawakami, et al. Preoperative Instability Does Not Influence the Clinical Outcome in Patients with Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy Treated With Expansive Laminoplasty. In Journal of Spinal Disorders. August 2002. Vol. 15. No. 4. Pp. 277-283.

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