Don’t Stick Your Neck Out For Neck Pain
Americans spend hours on computers, phones, and other repetitive activities. Neck pain is rising at alarming rates. The pain can come and go, but a deeper condition can be at play for chronic issues. Chronic pain often involves damage to the spine, and a simple neck turn can feel painful. Over time, the pain can cause more severe symptoms if left untreated. A surgical procedure called anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) can bring much-needed relief.
Check your spine
The spine starts at the neck, with 7 bones making up the cervical vertebrae. Between these bones are discs that help with shock absorption and facet joints that help with movement. These fibrous discs also prevent the bones from rubbing together or impacting nearby nerves. Due to injury or arthritis, these discs can degenerate or sometimes slip out of place. When discs slip out of place, nerve pain, stiffness, shoulder and arm pain can occur. These symptoms should prompt a doctor’s visit immediately.
Are you an ACDF candidate?
A spinal surgeon or specialist will perform both physical and imaging exams to confirm the cause of neck pain. Surgery is not the next step but rather a last resort for pain management. Doctors will recommend a combination of pain medication, steroid injections, and physical therapy. Each treatment is dependent on the patient’s health and needs. If these treatments fail and the damaged disc continues to impact the quality of life, ACDF can help.
What to expect during ACDF
Spinal surgery can be complex, but ACDF is a safe, effective procedure. First, the medical team places the patient under general anesthesia. The surgeon then makes a small incision at the anterior, or front, of the neck. The muscles and tissues are moved to one side, giving the surgeon access to the damaged spine. Next, the damaged disc and bone material are removed with surgical tools and imaging guidance. The space is then filled with a pre-prepared graft or artificial material. Before closing the incision, the surgeon secures the spine with a metal plate and screws.
Surgery can take several hours, but this minimally invasive technique means the patient can leave the same day. ACDF can take up to 12 weeks to heal for patients to return to everyday activities. However, the surrounding bone needs to grow and fuse, taking a further 12 months. Of course, with any surgery comes the possibility of complications, but ACDF has a high success rate. Chronic neck pain can severely impact the quality of life. ACDF is often a procedure that highly improves the quality of life.