The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)

 

I have neck and arm pain from a cervical disc herniation. What should I do?

Although surgery is frequently recommended, it should be your “last resort.”

Medications, including nonsteroidal medications (such as Motrin and Naprosyn) should be tried first. Other, stronger, pain relievers (such as Vicodin) and muscle relaxants (like Flexaril, Valium or Soma), should be used in moderation. Collars may help in the acute phase, but there is no scientific evidence that their long-term use is beneficial. Cervical pillows may provide comfort but do little to speed recovery. Traction may be of benefit, if done correctly. It can be done at home. Stretching exercises and the use of good ergonomics help in relieving pain and preventing future attacks. Physical therapy or chiropractic may relieve pain.

If the conservative care doesn’t help, a variety of injection procedures (pain blocks) are usually tried next. Cervical steroid blocks are successful in relieving the pain about half of the time. When they relieve the pain, they give the disc time to heal and may make surgery unnecessary.

If all else fails, a damaged cervical disc can be repaired with an operation. The operation is most often done from the front, using minimally invasive techniques. Complications and blood transfusions are uncommon. For a single bad disc, the surgery takes less then an hour and may not even require an overnight hospital stay.

 

 






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Last modified: 07/27/08