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Living with Neck Pain? Here’s Advice from a Spine Expert.

By |2024-05-10T08:08:53-04:00July 9th, 2022|Categories: Health A-Z, Orthopedics|Tags: , , |

When conservative treatments don’t send neck pain packing, surgery may be the best option for relief. Below is some insight on common surgical procedures from orthopedic surgeon Justin Elkrief, DO, who recently joined CentraState’s medical and dental staff and specializes in diagnosing and treating various spinal conditions.

What causes neck pain?

In many cases, pain is caused by a herniated disc, which happens when one of the rubbery discs between the spine’s bones is out of alignment. Other causes include spinal stenosis, which is when the spaces within the spine narrow and put pressure on the nerves, and degenerative disc disease, which occurs when one or more of the discs between the vertebrae of the spine break down.

How are disc issues treated?

Physical therapy, injections, and pain medication are among the conservative treatments we try first. If these treatments don’t provide relief, surgery may be required.

What types of surgery are available?

A common way to replace a herniated disc is to perform an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. This removes the injured disc, replaces it with a spacer, and locks movement in that joint. However, in addition to limiting movement, this approach requires the joints above and below. The fusion to work harder, which can lead to arthritis and additional surgery. It’s also not recommended for people who smoke. That’s because nicotine use can constrict blood flow to the bones, and injured bones don’t heal as well without an adequate blood supply.

Another surgical option is disc replacement surgery, which replaces the disc but doesn’t fuse the bones together. During this minimally invasive procedure, a small incision (about 1.5 inches) is made in the front of the neck. Soft tissue in the throat is moved to the side to gain access to the disc, which is removed and replaced with an implant that closely mimics the natural function and movement of your own discs. There are a variety of implants, which are made of materials including titanium, ceramics, and high-tech plastics.

What is the recovery process for disc replacement surgery?

Most patients are up and walking the same day. An overnight stay is typically required. After discharge, physical therapy helps patients regain motion and strength.

What are the benefits of disc replacement surgery over fusion surgery?

With disc replacement surgery, most patients are back to their normal activities in about six weeks instead of three months with fusion surgery. Range of motion isn’t limited with this approach, and it doesn’t put additional stress on the discs above and below the replacement. In fact, studies show that the rate of degeneration above and below the replaced disc is significantly less with disc replacement surgery. In addition, the procedure doesn’t require a bone graft, plates, or screws.

If you suffer from neck pain, your doctor can evaluate your condition, discuss all your treatment options, and let you know if disc replacement may be right for you.

For more information on spine surgery at CentraState, visit or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).

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