A new study published in the August 2009 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery (JBJS) finds that two years after anterior cervical neck operations, patients who have arthroplasty (disc replacement) or arthodesis (spine fusion) can be expected to have significant improvement in their headache symptoms.
"This is not a "cure" for all headaches. But, if you have headaches associated with neck pain and dysfunction, surgery for the neck problem can significantly improve the related headaches. And, anytime overall quality of life can be improved with surgical treatment, that is something to note." said study lead author, Joseph Riina, MD, of Orthopaedics Indianapolis.
The purpose of this study was to determine:
- the prevalence of headaches in patients with cervical radiculopathy (shooting pain in the arm) or myelopathy (spinal cord dysfunction); and
- the effectiveness of anterior cervical surgery (neck surgery from the front) in relieving headache symptoms associated with the cervical disease.
This study does not include migraine headaches and only studied headaches associated with cervical spine disease. Additionally, study authors acknowledge there still is a lack of knowledge regarding the exact anatomical structures that cause headaches, which could be caused by the disc, joints, muscles, tissues or some combination of those.
None of the patients surveyed had the operation to treat their headaches and headaches were not their only complaint. Additionally, no significant difference was reported in headache severity between the arthroplasty and arthodesis groups. The study participants (51.6 percent of whom were male) ranged in age from 25 to 78. The results were as follows: