Our nerves are remarkably sensitive, but they’re also very durable. After all, they need to send messages to the brain for our entire lifetime. But they don’t like to be crowded. That’s what happens when a bulging or herniated spinal disc starts pushing on a nerve root. If this occurs in the vertebrae in the neck, the pain will start in the neck and can radiate out into the arms and hands.
If this occurs and doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, our surgeons at Texas Neurosurgery perform a cervical posterior foraminotomy to relieve the compression and the corresponding pain.
Would this help me?
Some people can have some degree of nerve compression and not experience symptoms, but this is pretty rare. Most people will have at least mild symptoms. If the cervical spine is involved the pain can range from mild neck pain to severe numbness in the hand and electric-like pain shooting down the shoulder, arm, and hand. If the compression is extreme enough, the person will have weakness in the arm or hand.
Some people simply cope with the pain, but the compression shouldn’t be overlooked. That’s because if you have weakness in your arm or your hand nerve damage is possible. Once this happens, it is usually not reversible. That means you’ll lose some degree of function in your hands or fingers, and no one wants that.
How is a cervical posterior foraminotomy done?
For these surgeries, you’ll lie face down on the operating table. We begin by creating a 1-2 inch incision vertically down the back of the neck above the area of compression. The muscles and other tissues are moved aside to gain access to the spine.
To increase the space for the nerve root as it travels through the foramen, we may remove a portion of the foramen (hence the name of the surgery), basically enlarging the opening. We also may remove a portion of the lamina, the portion of the vertebra that forms the rear of the spinal canal. If a herniated disc is pressing on the nerve we carefully lift the nerve root and remove the portion of the disc causing the problem.
When the nerve root has ample space, the incision is closed and the procedure is complete.
You’ll be in the hospital for 1-2 nights after your foraminotomy. It will be 2-3 weeks before you can really bend or twist your neck. Pain will dictate what you can do. You’ll need to avoid heavy lifting for a month or so. There will likely be some moderate pain, but we’ll prescribe pain medication. Patients can usually return to desk work as early as 1-2 weeks after surgery.
Do you have chronic neck, arm, or hand pain? You could have compression in your cervical spine. Call the expert team at Texas Neurosurgery and let’s check out your neck, (214) 823-2052.