What do discs have to do with it?
Between each pair of vertebrae are discs that help with shock absorption and movement. Due to age, injury, or arthritis, these discs can degenerate. The inner nucleus shifts out of place, causing the disc to press on surrounding nerves. The result is pain and numbness in the neck that can radiate to the shoulders and arms. Eventually, the symptoms can impact the quality of life.
Turning to surgery
For years, some patients ignore disc conditions like degenerative disc disease or herniated discs. When the pain gets worse, however, a spinal specialist must get involved. This doctor can first use imaging machines to determine the root cause of the issue. For disc-related conditions, there are several non-surgical options available. Pain management through medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy are the first steps. Modifying work activities and using temperature therapies also bring great results. However, if these fail, the next step could be cervical disc replacement.
What is cervical disc replacement?
Surgery aims to remove the damaged disc and install an artificial replacement. A cervical disc replacement relieves nerve pain and stress on nearby vertebrae. The new disc allows the patient to maintain some neck motion. This process has evolved over the years to be less invasive, which leads to improved results. The surgeon accesses the disc from the best site. This could be done from an anterior or posterior location, depending on the location of the damage. The surgeon removes the damaged parts and places a spacer and artificial disc. Over time, the surrounding bones fuse to create a stronger neck.
Is cervical disc replacement right for you?
Cervical disc replacement is not for everyone. The patient should be in good health, where the risks of surgery do not outweigh the benefits. Disc replacement is also suitable for patients who haven’t responded to long-term non-surgical treatment. Both doctor and patient must discuss the risks and benefits before proceeding. If the chronic pain, numbness, headaches, and other symptoms remain unresolved, surgery shows long-term success rates.
A pain-free neck
Chronic pain and numbness in the neck can limit work, sports, and physical activity. A combination of pain management and physical therapy can help if treated early. If these options bring no relief, surgery can help. Patients must prepare for surgery and recovery, which can take up to 3 months. Complete fusion and recovery can take a further 12 months. A pain-free life starts with a discussion with a spine specialist.