The spine is a complex community of bones, joints, nerves, blood vessels, and other vital tissues. Each component performs a necessary task. The discs that sit between each vertebrae in the spine are there as natural “shock absorbers” that cushion force against adjacent bones. There are two parts to each disc, a gel-like center, and a strong outer ring that keeps the softer center intact. Sometimes, these discs can sustain damage. This may be due to direct injury, repetitive motion, aging, or dehydration of tissues.
Intervertebral discs (artificial discs) may be strong, but they are not indestructible. If damage occurs, the soft-center tissue may push outward through the fibrous outer shell. Depending on the severity of damage or degradation due to normal wear and tear, the secondary problem of bone spurs may develop. Impingement on nearby nerves and vessels is also a concern. This could result in chronic pain, weakness, numbness, muscle spasms, and other uncomfortable symptoms; and these are not limited to the area of injury. Because nerves travel from the spinal column to the rest of the body, it is possible for disc damage to affect an area far from the point of origin.
Spinal Surgery for Disc Problems
Typically, non-surgical therapies are the front-line treatment for disc injury or degeneration. However, if symptoms do not improve with physical therapy or other modalities, it is beneficial to consider the value of surgical intervention. One such approach is to replace the damaged disc with a new, artificial disc. This is referred to as cervical disc arthroplasty (CDR). The procedure is intended to alleviate pressure on affected nerves or the spinal cord – or both – and restore optimal mobility and alignment to the compromised segment of the spine. The inserted disc sustains functions such as rotation, extension, and flexion.
Cervical disc arthroplasty may be considered as an alternative to spinal fusion, although this procedure is also a viable solution to disc injury or damage. Most people who undergo spinal fusion experience substantial relief from their symptoms and improvement in their ability to perform a variety of activities without pain. As it sounds, spinal fusion bonds, or fuses, two vertebrae together with the intent of improving stability.
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Patients of New York City orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Todd Albert receive comprehensive care to improve comfort and quality of life. For more information on spinal conditions and treatment options, call 212-606-1004 today! Dr. Todd Albert serves the New York City area.