When To Consider Neck Surgery For Pain

August 30, 2012  |  neck pain

anatomy of the neck musclesNeck pain can be inconvenience, which can distract you from work and many other things.

Some people opt to get neck surgery to fully get rid of back pain, but is surgery really worth it?

Doctors usually recommend rest, home therapy and medication to treat neck pain right at its onset.

If the pain does not subside within days, a visit to the clinic and some tests may be necessary to diagnose the underlying condition. Upon diagnosis, your physician will most likely recommend physical therapy, medication or in very severe cases, surgery.

Reasons, Techniques and Risks for Neck Surgery

Neck surgery is usually recommended to cure these conditions:

  • To remove the pressure on your spinal cord, which is brought about by bone spurs, or herniated discs.
  • To eliminate the pain caused by a nerve root, which is being pressed on by bone spurs or materials from a herniated or ruptured disc. This condition is called radiculopathy.
  • To prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together, as an effect of degenerative disc disease. This can lead to pinched nerves, which bring about neck pain.

Your doctor may use either one of the surgical techniques:

  • Stabilization – A surgical procedure where the doctor regulates the motion in between your vertebrae.
  • Decompression – A procedure in which the doctor removes the tissue which is pressing on your nerve.

As with any surgery, there are risks that come along with it. Your doctor will inform you of any risks before giving you a consent form, so you have a general idea of what may happen.

  1. Pseudoarthrosis, the condition in where your bony fusion does not heal at all
  2. Neck pain does not disappear
  3. Injury to your nerves, spinal cord, carotid artery, esophagus or vocal cords
  4. Infection
  5. Pain and swelling
  6. Paralysis
  7. Death

The last two risks are very dangerous, but these happen in very rare cases. Still, these are possibilities that may happen, so it is always a good idea to have these in mind before deciding. Given the risk and expense of pain surgery, you should take the time to think and consider the possible side effects before turning in the consent form.

Hospitalization after the surgery may take up to a week. Healing and complete elimination of pain may be longer and can take weeks. You may also need to wear neck braces to help steady the area during the healing process.

Before Deciding On Surgery

Before deciding on surgery, you should try to eliminate all sources of neck pain first. For example, you may want to change your mattress or invest in a good orthopedic pillow first. Who knows, your neck pain may simply be caused by sleep or bed-related reasons.  Ask your doctor for all possible forms of treatments that you can try.

Surgery should always be a last resort for any pain symptom. If other forms treatment or therapy for neck pain are still possible,  you take these steps first before finally deciding to go under the knife.

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