Cervical Laminectomy

Muscle strain and tension are common conditions that cause neck pain. Almost all cases of acute neck pain go away within about one or two weeks with the right type of conservative treatments. Neck pain may be a recurring problem in some people who work on the computer for long periods or participate in intensive sports. A person has chronic neck pain if the symptoms last over three months.

There are two types of neck pain:

  • Axial pain – characterized by pain that is felt in the cervical spine (neck) that sometimes spreads to the shoulders
  • Radicular pain – characterized by pain that shoots or radiates up the back of the head or down into one or both arms. The most common cause of radicular pain is irritated nerves, such as herniated disks in the neck that may affect arm reflexes and muscle strength, resulting in a feeling of pins and needles.

Neck pain is common and is usually nothing to worry about. However, seek medical attention if:

  • Pain occurs after an injury or a blow to the head
  • A fever or headache accompanies the neck pain
  • A stiff neck prevents you from touching chin to chest
  • Pain radiates or shoots down an arm
  • There is tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms or hands
  • Neck symptoms are associated with leg weakness or loss of coordination in the arms or legs
  • The pain does not respond to conservative treatments, such as over-the-counter medications
  • Pain does not improve after a week

Certain everyday activities can cause neck pain, such as:

  • Hunching over a desk for several hours
  • Having poor posture
  • Working on the computer monitor positioned too high or too low for an extended period
  • Sleeping in an awkward position
  • Twisting and turning the neck in a jarring manner while exercising
  • Lifting things too quickly or with poor posture
  • Being exposed to a cold draft

Other causes of neck pain include accidents or falls that can cause severe neck injuries, even paralysis. Some of the conditions and injuries that can cause neck pain are:

  • Wear and tear on the cervical spine - typical signs of deterioration arise throughout a person's lifetime, such as flattened spinal disks and osteochondrosis or the formation of bone spurs along the edges of the front part of the bones in the spine. Cervical spondylosis is another condition that occurs when osteoarthritis develops in the joints between the neck vertebrae. These changes make it harder to move the neck but rarely cause neck pain.
  • Whiplash - an injury that can occur when the impact of a collision causes the head to jerk forward and then back again during an accident rapidly.
  • Narrowing of the vertebral canal or a slipped disk - neck pain can occur due to a vertebral canal that is too narrow or if the spinal disk tissue bulges or leaks out and puts pressure on a nerve root. The pain can radiate from the neck into the shoulder or arm. However, a slipped disk does not always cause symptoms.

Inflammatory conditions of the spine, jaw joint problems or severe headaches can sometimes cause neck pain. About 1 in 3 people suffer from neck pain once a year. Neck pain is more prevalent in women than men.

The first line of treatment to manage neck pain may include conservative medical therapy to reduce pain and inflammation, such as applying a cold or hot compress, stretching and strengthening exercises that target the neck, massages and painkillers. Surgery is the last option and is only considered if a clear cause has been found, and more invasive treatments might help provide long-term relief from neck pain. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans help find the cause if there are signs of serious disease.

Some of the most common conditions that may be necessary to perform cervical laminectomy include the following:

  • A pinched nerve (cervical radiculopathy) – is a condition that occurs when there is excess pressure placed on one of the nerve roots in the neck
  • Spinal cord compression (cervical myelopathy) – results from a compressed or irritated spinal cord. Osteoarthritis, scoliosis or an injury to the neck are some of the most common causes of cervical myelopathy
  • Broken neck (cervical fracture) – a condition that occurs when one or more of the bones in the neck is broken

What Is a Cervical Laminectomy?

A laminectomy is a common procedure to remove the lamina to decompress or relieve pressure in a narrowed spinal canal so the spinal nerves have more room. The lamina is part of the bone that makes up a vertebra in the spine. In a cervical laminectomy, the spinal surgeon makes the incision at the back of the neck. However, a laminectomy can also make the spine less stable. Patients who undergo this procedure may also require spinal fusion to help strengthen and stabilize the spine.

Spinal surgeons also perform laminectomy surgery to remove bone spurs or herniated (slipped) disks in the spine and other surgical procedures, such as diskectomy, foraminotomy or spinal fusion.

How Serious Is a Cervical Laminectomy?

Spinal surgery in the neck, such as a cervical laminectomy, carries potential risks. Patients need to weigh the procedure's benefits against its risks carefully. If you are a candidate for a cervical laminectomy, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this procedure with your spinal surgeon before deciding if it is a good fit. Many patients who have had neck pain surgery report significant pain relief. However, as with any procedure, surgery is not guaranteed to help every individual.

Is a Cervical Laminectomy a Major Surgery?

Like any spine surgery, cervical laminectomy is a major operation that involves making a small incision in the neck to allow a spinal surgeon to view the cervical spine. Part or all of the lamina bones may be removed on both sides of the spine, along with the spinous process, the sharp part of your spine. Aside from the lamina bones, a spinal surgeon may remove small disk fragments, bone spurs or other soft tissue. Additional neck surgeries, such as a spinal fusion, may be needed to stabilize the spinal column after surgery.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From a Cervical Laminectomy?

Unlike lower back surgeries, neck surgeries often require only a day or two in the hospital following surgery. Pain after neck surgery is natural and part of the healing process. If you have undergone a cervical laminectomy, your spinal surgeon will likely prescribe medications for short-term pain relief, such as opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and local anesthetics.

Physical therapy is typically recommended six weeks to three months after surgery to help restore your strength and range of motion in the neck. Full recovery after neck surgery varies and depends on the type of procedure performed. For example, spinal fusion can take six months to a year for the bones to completely fuse and become solid.

We’ve Got Your Back

You don’t have to bear the burden of pain alone. Our providers are here to listen to you and provide compassionate care. Whether you’re suffering from neck pain, an injury or any other orthopedic condition affecting your spine, Nacogdoches Medical Partners is here to help. We provide spine care services from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation. Early treatment may help relieve your symptoms and prevent your condition from worsening. Call 888-421-9679 or click the button below to schedule an appointment.