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Surgery for Neck Pain May Also Relieve Headaches

Operations had added benefit for majority of patients, survey found

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery can significantly improve headaches associated with neck problems, according to the results of a patient survey.

The study included 1,004 patients, aged 25 to 78, who had two types of cervical neck operations -- arthroplasty (disk replacement) or arthodesis (spine fusion).

Before the surgery, 86.4 percent of the patients reported headaches -- 34.1 percent had mild headaches and 52.1 percent had severe headaches. Among the 803 patients who responded two years after surgery, 34.9 percent reported no headaches, 46.7 percent reported mild headaches, and 18.4 percent reported severe headaches, according to the survey results published in the August issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

"This is not a 'cure' for all headaches," lead author Joseph Riina, of Orthopaedics Indianapolis, said in a news release. "But if you have headaches associated with neck pain and dysfunction, surgery for the neck problem can significantly improve the related headaches. And, any time overall quality of life can be improved with surgical treatment, that is something to note."

No significant differences in headache severity were reported between the arthroplasty and arthodesis groups, the study authors noted. None of the patients included in the study had surgery to treat their headaches, and headaches were not their only complaint. The study didn't include people with migraines.

"This is the largest study that we know of in which incidence and improvement of headaches has been studied related to anterior spine surgery," Riina said. "I think we answered a big question: Can patients have less neck pain and fewer headaches after this kind of surgery? And, the answer is yes."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about headache.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, news release, August 2009

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