While most people who suffer from neck and upper back pain don’t need surgery to relieve the pain and correct the problem, some severe cases require cervical spine surgery. What situations warrant surgical intervention, and what is involved in this type of surgery?
When is surgery necessary? Most of the time, neck pain can be managed with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, a spinal block, or narcotics; however, there are some cases when these measures are not enough. One example would be a patient who has a herniated disc that causes so much pain that the patient cannot continue to function and other treatment methods have not been able to give any relief. Another example would be a patient who not only experiences pain, but also has a significant loss of sensation or motor function. In this case, the result of not relieving the pressure on the nerve in a timely manner could lead to the loss of function of the affected muscle group.
What is involved in spine surgery? The primary surgical procedure for neck, shoulder, and arm pain that comes from the compression of nerve roots is a cervical discectomy with fusion. In this procedure, cervical spine specialists create an incision along the side of the chest wall and remove the damaged and diseased tissue, including the disc. A bone graft is placed where the disc tissue had been and the vertebrae above and below that area are fused together. This procedure is the best available option for treating a variety of neck and spine problems. Often this is a day surgery procedure.
If spine surgery is necessary, talk to your doctor about the specific risks involved in your case, and the expected recovery time.