The spinal column is a collection of bony structures (vertebrae) and gelatinous cushions (discs). The discs serve the important role of absorbing shock during physical movement. Because they are continually in use, the discs of the spine are relatively susceptible to injury and breakdown. A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back pain. The pressure from a herniated disc on a nerve can also cause tingling, numbness, and weakness along the nerve path. Surgery is considered a last resort for disc injury in most cases and is recommended only after conservative therapies have been tried. Here are a few things to know about spinal disc surgery.
There are Different Types of Disc Surgeries
Although all disc procedures are performed to relieve pain, the direct goal of each procedure differs based on the problem that has developed. For example, an orthopedic specialist may recommend discectomy such as anterior cervical decompression to remove a small amount of disc material and relieve pressure on the nerve. Discectomy also often involves the fusion of two vertebrae to hold the space through which the nerve travels open. By recreating space for the nerve, this procedure relieves pain. In some instances, the disc is removed and replaced with an artificial structure. During the consultation for surgery, all appropriate options are discussed in detail.
Recovering from Disc Surgery
Most spinal surgeons agree that the postoperative care plan is a critical aspect of success in treating disc injuries. Over the years, as surgical techniques have improved, we’ve seen the amount of time a person needs for recovery dwindle. Still, postoperative care may involve a few days of downtime followed by a course of physical therapy. Certain activities may need to be limited for a short time and, in some instances, a neck brace may need to be worn. As with the details of the surgery itself, post-operative guidelines are provided before the disc procedure is performed.
Disc Surgery Success Rates
Disc surgery is considered highly effective for lumbar disc injuries, achieving a satisfactory outcome in more than 80 percent of patients. In one study, this percentage of nearly 40,000 patients reported “good” to “excellent” results from lumbar disc surgery. Another study indicated that patients treated for a lumbar disc problem continued to enjoy satisfactory results two years after their procedure.