Former president, current representative Arroyo recovering from spine surgery

Oct 21 2011
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president of the Philippines and current representative of Pampanga, is recovering from a series of spine surgeries intended to treat neck pain caused by a pinched nerve. After her first surgery in July, Arroyo has experienced several complications related to weakening bones that were unable to support her spinal fusion, according to a report in Asian Journal.

"She's stable [now] relative to her spine. But her parathyroid glands are not working so [medical treatment abroad] is still being considered due to her bone mineral disorder and hypoparathyroidism," said Elena Bautista-Horn, Arroyo's spokesperson.

The spinal column consists of the vertebrae, the facet joints and the intervertebral discs that stabilize motion in the bones. If any of these structures is damaged by injury, disease or mechanical degradation over time, back pain may be the result.

One condition that can lead to back pain is a pinched nerve, which occurs when parts of the spinal column degenerate and put pressure on the nerve. Because these cells carry messages between the brain and the rest of the body, this condition can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms and painful, tingling, burning or numbing sensations that travel to the extremities.

Pinched nerves can be caused by herniated discs or bone spurs that grow as a result of osteoarthritis.

Most patients can sufficiently treat a pinched nerve with conservative approaches, such as alternating treatments of heat and cold compresses, a hot shower, lying down with a towel rolled up under the neck or massage. Range-of-motion stretches, such as neck rolls, can help release endorphins that help relieve the pain. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be effective.

Some cases of pinched nerves are severe enough to require surgery. In July, Arroyo had four vertebrae from her cervical spine replaced with titanium implants, according to Asian Journal. However, doctors said Arroyo may have a bone mineral disorder that made her spine unable to support the implants. Ever since being discharged from surgery to fix the implants, she has been on a regimen of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to strengthen her bones. She may travel abroad for further treatment.