The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


I have a pinched nerve in my neck. Do I need a cervical disc surgery?

Pinched nerves in the neck can be caused by disc bulges or by bone spurs. Most can be treated conservatively. Rest, analgesics, physical therapy, and chiropractic care will relieve the pain in 60% to 90% of patients. When conservative treatment fails, where there is significant weakness or when the pain is overwhelming, surgery may be needed.

Surgery for damaged cervical discs is most commonly done through the front of the neck. The spine is closer to the front. The anterior type of surgery is less painful than that done from behind. It usually takes 45 to 60 minutes to correct a ruptured disc or remove a bad bone spur. Most patients spend one night or less in the hospital.

Nine of every ten anterior cervical disc surgeries include a fusion. The fusion involves replacing the disc with a solid piece of bone. Research has shown that the fusion increases the rate of success and lessens the pain. Bone for the fusion was previously taken from the patientís hip and was often painful. Hip bone is now rarely required as there are many substitutes available.

Following surgery, most patients can return to most activities in four to six weeks. People can return to light work shortly thereafter. Unrestricted activity is appropriate after three or four months.



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Last modified: 07/27/08