Some people who experience persistent neck pain seek medical advice immediately: these folks will make an appointment with our cervical pain specialty practice in New Jersey as soon as they realize that their discomfort isn’t abating within a day or two. There are far more, unfortunately who procrastinate about making an appointment. These patients are so fearful that they might need surgery that they will put themselves through weeks of needless suffering, just to avoid a diagnosis.
Needless to say, not every patient with chronic pain will need surgical intervention. For many, a combination of massage, physical therapy, exercise and other conservative treatment approaches will not only alleviate their discomfort, but also keep it from returning.
For others, including those whose problem involves discs that are breaking down or nerves that are being pinched, surgery may be the only solution. Still, there is no reason to fear any kind of spine surgery.
The innovations that have been made in surgical techniques mean that most patients are able to undergo minimally invasive procedures from which they are able to walk away the same day and return to work and other normal activities within days.
The most common diagnoses that need cervical spine surgery are:
- Cervical radiculopathy, in which the nerve is being pinched or irritated by a herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis, in which the spinal nerves are compressed because the space within the spine has narrowed
- Degenerative disc disease in which the discs between the vertebrae have become thin or brittle and can’t stop the discs from grinding together
In most cases, our cervical spine specialist will recommend one of the following types of surgery to address physical problems leading to chronic neck pain:
- Anterior cervical discectomy, in which the spine is accessed from the front, the offending disc removed, and a bone graft stabilizes the area
- Posterior cervical discectomy, in which the spine is accessed from the front to remove disc tissue and expand the space for the nerve
- Disc replacement, in which the damaged cervical disc is removed and an artificial disc inserted in its spot. The incision is made in the front of the neck.
Recovery time for each of this procedures is different, and often depends upon the patient’s exact diagnosis. Though there is little that can be done to actually speed up the healing process, there are some things that patients can do to help the process go as quickly as possible, and most of these have to do with following the instructions provided to you by your cervical spine surgeon.
These include protecting the surgical site and keeping it clean, attending any recommended physical therapy sessions consistently and following the PT’s instructions for at-home exercise, and making sure that you stay hydrated and eat a balanced, healthy diet.
In all cases undergoing cervical spine surgery offers the hope of improved quality of life and better health. For information on how we can help you, contact our cervical spine specialist in New Jersey today to set up an appointment.