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The cervical spine has a number of important roles as it controls vital movements in the head. It also protects the spinal cord, which runs through the middle carrying vital messages from the brain to almost every area of the body - including the skin and organs.
The cervical spine is a complicated structure and consists of seven bones known as vertebrae. The top two vertebrae work in a different way to the rest and allow the head to move in a sideways motion. The remaining five sections work to control the tilting of the head and neck.
There is a disc of tough material between each pair of vertebrae which is made of cartilage and resembles a pad. This absorbs the shock from movement and helps to guard against damage to the vertebrae and spinal cord.
Due to either injury or degeneration, fragments of disc can push back into the spinal canal causing inflammation and pressure on the nerve, which sometimes results in a herniated disc. Deposits known as spurs often build up on vertebrae which pinches the nerves. The result is intense pain in the neck and arm.
Surgery is frequently considered as the best way to treat issues with the cervical spine. There are a range of options available. To alleviate a herniated disc it is normal to either operate through the front or back of neck. Surgeons normally prefer to go through the front as this is generally less disruptive to the patient.
This page is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.