Cervical spine disorders vary in presentation, severity and symptomatic potential. It is our goal to teach you about a diversity of spinal abnormalities in the neck and this article fulfills that mission by profiling a selection of common structural irregularities in the C-spine. If you feel that something is wrong in your neck, then this essay is a perfect place to start your research. “Disorders” is a very strong word, since it implies pathology. In many cases, abnormality might exist innocently, without generating any symptoms whatsoever. However, since disorders actually mean “something that is out of normal order” then we can accept the use of this term here, since all of these conditions do represent differences from a textbook perfect cervical spinal anatomy.
This treatise profiles a catalog of structural changes that can occur in the neck. We will summarize each condition and provide links to specific pages where readers can learn more about conditions that interest them.
Common Cervical Spine Disorders
There are many possible structural abnormalities that are commonly seen in the cervical spine including all of the following diagnoses below:
Cervical degenerative disc disease is actually a completely normal occurrence and one that affects every adult eventually. Most people begin to experience noticeable disc deterioration in the neck about the age of 30 to 40 and this process basically continues until the affected discs, usually between C4 and T1, are completely desiccated.
Bulging and herniated discs are also very common and almost universally experienced in the neck, also between C4 and T1. Most herniations are complete nonissues in terms of symptomology, but some can affect neurological tissue and therefore create pain and dysfunction.
Changes in lordosis, either hypolordosis or less commonly, hyperlordosis, are common to experience as we age. Changes in cervical lordosis can be created by underlying skeletal conditions or might be the result of muscular actions in the neck, making them consequences of some other source process.
Cervical osteoarthritis is universal and usually seen in patients above the age of 40. Osteoarthritic evidence accumulates within the central and foraminal spinal canals, as well as on the exterior components of the spine, including the vertebral bodies, facet joints and other structures. Most osteoarthritis is harmless, but some cases can contribute to spinal stenosis, facet joint syndrome or mechanical pain syndromes.
Uncommon Cervical Region Disorders
Less common spinal disorders might also present themselves in the neck region. These include all of the following conditions:
Cervical spondylolisthesis is an abnormal migration forward or rearwards of one or more vertebral bones often due to a defect or injury at the pars interarticularis.
Cervical scoliosis is an atypical side-to-side curvature of the spine that usually also involves changes in lordosis, as well as vertebral rotation.
Torticollis is a condition in which the neck is tilted to one side, and/or forward due to a variety of possible reasons.
Evaluation of Cervical Spine Disorders
The cervical spine is subjected to continual stress during life, as it must mobilize the very heavy head through an extensive range of movement, as well as cope with various pressures imposed upon it by impact and inertia. All of these factors cause degeneration and alteration of typical spinal structure. Additionally, many people are born with congenital defects in the C-spine or abnormalities that lead to the development of defects as the person grows and matures.
Of all the conditions listed above, only ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis are inherently symptomatic. All the others qualify to be called abnormalities, but are not pathological by nature, although some cases can become problematic for select patients. To learn more about any of these spinal structural atypicalities, please consult with your physician or continue reading the detailed account of the condition on this trusted web resource or the other sites of The Cure Back Pain Network.