No matter how healthy you are, the anatomical components of the cervical (neck) region of your spine are susceptible to age-related deterioration. Once you are well into adulthood, the seven vertebrae that comprise the cervical region have already been subjected to a great deal of wear and tear, and that heavy use will continue throughout the rest of your life. After all, the cervical spine is responsible for supporting the weight of the head, and must bear up under a wide range of stress-inducing movements like turning, bending, and twisting, no matter how old you are.
By the time you reach middle age, the intervertebral discs, tendons, ligaments, and joints in the neck have begun to wear down and might not be as flexible as they once were. This deterioration is inevitable, and while discomfort can develop, it does not necessarily follow that symptoms will become debilitating. That said, bulging discs, bone spurs, deteriorating joint cartilage, and thickening ligaments can jeopardize the stability of the cervical region. Upper back surgery or neck surgery is sometimes called for, but even people who suffer from chronic neck pain related to nerve compression usually can manage their symptoms without undergoing an operation.
In addition to addressing symptoms with a regimen of conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods, you can give yourself a chance to mitigate debilitating neck pain and other symptoms by taking a few simple steps during routine activities. You might be able to avoid eventual neck surgery by:
- Maintaining proper posture (no hunched shoulders or slouching over), whether working or driving long distances
- Sleeping with a comfortable pillow that provides proper support for your head and neck
- Using proper techniques when golfing, swimming, riding a bike, or participating in another athletic activity, and always employing an adequate warm-up period (including stretching)
- Exercising and staying active
- Eating healthy food and maintaining a healthy body weight
Certainly, there never is a guarantee that you will be able to avoid the symptoms that often compel someone to consent to neck surgery. Everyone ages, and each person’s body responds differently to the aging process. All you can do is take the steps that are within your control, and be mindful of your overall health as you get older.