The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


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

Pinched nerves in the neck can be caused by disc bulges or by bone spurs. Most can be treated with rest, stretching, analgesics, physical therapy, chiropractic care or acupuncture. Some will get better with injections called nerve blocks. When all conservative treatment fails, if there is weakness, or in the event that the pain becomes overwhelming, surgery may be needed.

Surgery for the neck is most commonly done anteriorly (through the front of the neck rather than the back). The spine is closer to the front of the neck, and the anterior operation is typically less painful. The operation takes 45 to 60 minutes and rarely requires more than an overnight stay in the hospital.

Most anterior cervical disc operations include a fusion. The fusion involves replacing the disc with a piece of bone. Research has shown that the fusion increases the rate of success. The risks of fusion are low. The use of bone from the patientís hip (the painful part of fusion surgery) is usually avoided.

Ninety-five percent of patients, who undergo a cervical fusion surgery, wake up from the operation without pain. Complications are rare. Patients can usually return to work about three months after the surgery. To explore your options, consult a spine specialist. 



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Last modified: 07/27/08