Neck and back pain are a problem for more than 16 million Americans. It often results in chronic pain that can limit even everyday activities. In the past, the only surgical option was a fusion where the problem disc was removed, and the bones were fused together. Today, we have artificial discs that can replace the injured disc and can preserve motion in the neck or the back.
If you have chronic neck or back pain or radiculopathy, nerve pain that radiates to the arm or leg caused by the disc pressing on a nerve, your surgeon will first recommend conservative treatments such as physical therapy or medications. If these do not relieve the pain, your doctor may order an MRI to get to the root cause of the pain and see if something is pinching or pressing on the nerve. Often a steroid injection can be used to identify and isolate the specific nerve root that is causing the problem. From there, your surgeon can determine if you may be a candidate for a disc replacement and will understand exactly which area to target with surgery. At OrthoTexas we also use the latest advancements in interoperative or robotic navigation, so your surgeon can laser target the specific area that is causing the pain.
A disc replacement can treat many spine conditions that cause chronic and nerve pain from a herniated disc to degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, facet arthritis or spondyloses. Disc replacement surgery can be a successful treatment for both cervical (neck injuries) and low back pain. The most common area for disc replacement surgery is the lower back and sciatic area. There are many benefits to the newer and more minimally invasive disc replacement surgeries:
- Preserve motion – One of the primary advantages disc replacements is that it can preserve the natural motion of the spine. The damaged or degenerated disc is replaced with an artificial disc designed to mimic the movement of a healthy disc. This allows for more normal neck motion and flexibility versus a cervical fusion, which eliminates motion in that segment of the spine.
- Reduced risk of degeneration of the spine: Often a spinal fusion can increase the risk of deterioration of the disc above and below the fused segment and can see accelerated degeneration due to increased stress and limited motion. With a disc replacement you can maintain motion in the treated area and this may reduce the likelihood of further degeneration.
- Faster recovery: Patients often experience a quicker recovery with a disc replacement vs a fusion. They may have less postoperative pain and typically require a shorter rehabilitation period.
- Improved range of motion: allowing patients to retain a more natural range of motion, which can be important for activities that require mobility and flexibility to preserve neck functionality, including the ability to look up and down, turn the head, and engage in everyday activities.
If you are experiencing back or neck pain that is impacting your life and your ability to enjoy daily activities, make an appointment to resolve your pain. We treat the spine with the most conservative treatments first and while less than 10% of our patients need surgery, when they do we offer the most advanced and minimally invasive techniques to repair back and neck injuries and get you back to living your best life!
Dr. Jason Alder is a minimally invasive spine specialist at OrthoTexas. He completed his training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where he specialized in the newest and most advanced techniques in minimally invasive spine surgery.