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When Does Neck Pain Require Surgery?

neck pain, strain, nerve compression, disease, ouch, surgery

While we often joke about things being a “pain in the neck,” real neck pain is no laughing matter. Some cases may even require surgery, such as neck injuries that stem from car accidents or falls.

Dr. John Regan, an orthopedic spine surgeon here at Spine Group Beverly Hills and a pioneer in minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques, can perform surgery to reduce painful compression of the nerves in your neck. He may also suggest minimally invasive surgery to repair herniated or ruptured discs in this region.

The last resort may come sooner than you think

While most doctors would prefer to reduce neck pain without surgery, such as through physical therapy and medication, sometimes surgery is the best choice. This can be the case if you’ve been diagnosed with cervical disc disease, due to arthritis, injury, or another unknown cause.

Your doctor can perform surgery to significantly improve symptoms such as balance issues, pain, numbness in your hands or fingers, or a chronic pinched nerve.

Surgical options include:

Anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF): Dr. Regan removes the damaged disc and places a piece of bone in between the vertebrae. Within just a few months, the bones will fuse together.

Artificial disc replacement: Greater range of motion can often be achieved by replacing your injured disc with a manmade version.

Posterior cervical laminoforaminotomy (CLF): Dr. Regan makes a small incision in the back of your neck during surgery to remove whatever is pinching the nerve and relieve your pain.

Laminectomy: The doctor removes any spurs or ligaments, easing pressure and creating more space within the spinal column.

Artificial disc replacement versus cervical fusion

When surgery is the best option, you and your doctor will decide which treatment works best for you — whether it’s artificial disc replacement or cervical fusion with actual bone.

The FDA approved the first artificial disc in 2007. They’ve since used these for more than a decade with positive results. While you can generally return to work or normal activities sooner with an artificial disc, the surgery itself takes longer.

Once you opt for spinal fusion, you can’t put an artificial disc in its place. However, if you first choose an artificial disc, you can later receive cervical fusion. You and Dr. Regan can discuss your options.

The recovery process

Recovery time varies, depending upon which surgery you choose. Patients who undergo spinal fusion, for example, generally take up to a year to fully heal.

Dr. Regan will evaluate your progress after four to six weeks. During that time, he advises only light activity, such as walking. He may also recommend physical therapy to aid the healing process. Either way, you’ll eventually enjoy a new lease on life with far less pain.

You should maintain or achieve a healthy weight to ease the added burden placed on your neck and spine. If you smoke, try your best to quit. Smoking actually slows down recovery time while decreasing your life span. You’ve worked hard to improve your quality of life, so why not enjoy it as long as you can?

When you’re ready to take the first step toward living without neck pain, contact Spine Group Beverly Hills to arrange an appointment with Dr. Regan.

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