The Top 3 Reasons Why Neck Surgery Should Only Be A Last Resort

Neck surgery
Neck pain is often relentless and debilitating, and it may not be confined to your neck. Pain from a herniated disk in the upper spine can radiate down the arm, cause numbness and tingling and limit your ability to enjoy activities that once seemed effortless.

Apart from relying on pain medications, there are non-invasive ways to treat the cause of your neck pain, and surgery should only be a last resort. There are risks with any surgery, but neck surgery is spinal surgery and the potential risks of spinal surgery are serious. Here are the top 3 reasons to avoid neck surgery and use non-invasive treatment options instead …

1. Nerve Damage

During surgery, there is a risk that both the nerves and the spinal cord might be damaged leading to things like weakness, paralysis, and even a loss of function to certain nerve-controlled functions like your bladder, bowel and sexual function. Although fairly rare, the risk is real.

2. Bony Fusion Failure

The aim of some neck surgeries is to remove the disc between two vertebrae in the upper spine and to cause a fusion of bone placed between the two vertebral bodies to grow. For various reasons — including certain common medications you might be taking — this fusion fails to grow as expected, and the result is a need for a second surgery and the risks that accompany it.

3. Swallowing Problems (Dysphagia) and/or Breathing Problems

It’s not uncommon for those undergoing neck surgery to experience a sore throat and hoarseness following surgery, but sometimes, these are accompanied by difficulty swallowing — a condition known in the medical world as dysphagia. This is usually a temporary, disconcerting side effect, but in severe cases, it can be a permanent condition leading you to a severely limited diet for the rest of your life. The risk occurs as a result of the surgeon’s need to dissect and retract tissues at the back of the neck in order to view and work on the affected vertebrae.

There’s also a risk that the trachea (breathing tube) can be damaged during anterior spinal surgery, leading to problems in the thoracic cavity if it’s not recognized during surgery.

Aside from these particularly scary risks, there are also the usual risks that accompany any other lengthy surgery such as inadvertent damage to a blood vessel, anesthesia risks, bleeding risks, blood clots in the legs that can spread to lungs and/or heart, and infections.

It’s important to realize that suffering with neck pain needn’t be a “life sentence” since there are other non-surgical alternatives that can bring real and lasting relief. Physical therapy is commonly used to treat neck pain. Your physical therapist will evaluate your neck pain based on things like

  • range of motion
  • quality of motion
  • overall strength
  • tenderness when touched or pressed on
  • posture
  • ability to perform certain tasks

Once your PT has gathered the information she needs to evaluate your condition, she’ll work with you to develop an action plan to help alleviate your pain based on your symptoms. She’ll also work with you to develop a plan to avoid a recurrence. This might include specific exercises, correcting posture problems, massage therapy, and other pain-relieving strategies such as heat and ice therapies.

If properly treated, neck pain can often be relieved in as little as 4 or as many as 6 weeks of physical therapy. In severe cases, you may need to return to your doctor for a more invasive treatment such as a spinal injection, or in the worst case, last-resort scenario — neck surgery.

Orthopedic and Balance Therapy Specialists in Northern Indiana may be able to help with your neck pain. Click here to request a free telephone consultation today!

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