Artificial Disc Replacement
Artificial disc replacement is a state-of-the-art surgical treatment for disc-related back and neck pain, providing an effective alternative to traditional spinal fusion surgeries. If you’ve been diagnosed with disc pain, especially in your neck (or cervical spine), artificial disc replacement could be a great option to help you find relief.
Disc-related spine problems
Discs are spongy structures located between each pair of spine bones (or vertebrae). Your discs act as shock absorbers for your spine, protecting it from jolts and impacts, and they also give your spine flexibility. Discs are made of tough material that’s designed to withstand the everyday movements of your spine. But as tough as they are, discs can still be damaged by trauma, disease or age-related degeneration. Sometimes, a disc can be torn or herniated; other times, it can break down over time, losing some of its natural “plumpness” and increasing friction in your spine. No matter what causes disc damage, the symptoms associated with a damaged disc can take a major toll on your quality of life.
The most common symptoms associated with disc pain include:
Chronic or recurring neck or back pain
Pain radiating down your arms or legs
“Pins and needles” sensations or numbness in your legs, arms or hands
Pain that gets worse with long periods of sitting, when bending over, when inclining or rotating your head, or when coughing or sneezing
The location of your symptoms depends on which disc is damaged. For instance, a damaged disc in your lower back (or lumbar spine) might cause pain, weakness, or numbness down one or both legs, while a damaged disc in your neck (your cervical spine) can cause symptoms that radiate into your shoulders, arms and hands.
The first step: Conservative care
Some mild disc problems can be treated with rest, lifestyle modifications and changes in your habits or routines, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to relieve both pain and inflammation. Gentle stretching may also alleviate mild symptoms by gently coaxing “slipped” discs back into their proper positions. And in other cases, injections of corticosteroids can provide direct relief to the damaged disc, acting to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Other times though, these conservative treatment options aren’t sufficient to relieve pain and help you get back to your regular activities. When one or more discs is badly damaged by trauma or degeneration, the best option may be surgery.
Artificial disc replacement: Restoring function and comfort
There was a time when spinal fusion was the only real solution to chronic disc-related pain. In spinal fusion surgery, bone grafts and metal plates are used to permanently immobilize the part of your spine that’s damaged. While fusion eliminates friction that causes nerve compression and pain, it also prevents that part of your spine from moving. That’s an especially critical consideration in your neck or cervical spine, where flexibility and a wide range of motion are necessary for normal function and movement.
When your cervical spine is fused, not only do you lose that range of movement, but the stress normally handled by that part of your spine can be transmitted to other parts of your back, causing excess wear and tear and increasing the risk of damage in those areas, as well. Plus, cervical spinal fusion typically uses a plate in the front of the spine to stabilize your neck. That plate can cause irritation to your esophagus, and it may even cause problems with swallowing. For these reasons, artificial disc replacement offers a lot of potential advantages over traditional spinal fusion surgery. By replacing a damaged disc in your neck with an artificial disc made of state-of-the-art components, you can relieve the pain and stiffness in your neck while still enjoying full range of motion.
What happens in cervical disc replacement?
Disc replacement surgery (also called a total disc arthroplasty) begins in much the same way as a fusion surgery. Your surgeon uses very small incisions to access and remove the damaged disc. But instead of inserting bone grafts and metal plates used in spinal fusion, the artificial disc is inserted and attached to your vertebrae.
An artificial disc comprises two components designed to work together to mimic the motion of a natural disc. The components are attached to the vertebrae above and below the damaged disc. The “double attachment” allows the vertebrae to move and flex, preserving the normal range of motion. Most patients can be discharged the same day as their surgery, returning to work within two to six weeks.
Artificial disc replacement in the neck is typically associated with faster healing compared to spinal fusion, with a faster return to regular daily activities. plus, while you may need to wear a neck collar or cervical brace for a week or so after a total disc arthroplasty, with fusion the brace is worn for much longer, limiting movement and comfort.
Learn more about artificial disc replacement
As a leading orthopedic practice in northern Illinois, Ortho Illinois offers state-of-the-art care for patients of all ages, provided by board-certified physician specialists with the skills and expertise to help you enjoy optimal results and a better quality of life. To find out more about what’s causing your back or neck pain or to learn more about artificial disc replacement, give us a call at 815-398-9491 and schedule an appointment today.