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Treatment of Neurological Problems
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The cervical discs are protective cushions that allow the free movement of the neck. The intervertebral disks located between the cervical vertebrae (7 bones, C1-C7, that constitute the cervical spine) function as shock absorbers.
However, any damage and injury to the cervical disc, or an ailment can narrow the spinal canal. As a result, the intervertebral cervical discs exert pressure on the spinal nerves (responsible for movement and sensation in the upper body). There may be weakness and loss of sensation, causing pain (moderate to chronic) and discomfort in the neck. The free movement of the neck also gets affected (restricted).
In many cases, physiotherapy and other nonsurgical medications can help improve the condition. Cervical Disc Surgery comes as a blessing in extreme cases, where the non-surgical medications fail to provide any relief.
For long, the cervical disc surgery involved the surgical removal of the affected disc, followed by the fusion of the vertebrae located above and below the affected cervical disc (Traditional Fusion Surgery).
The advancement of technology has increased the effectiveness (higher success rate) of the cervical disc surgery. These days, the surgery is simple and involves replacing the affected cervical disk with an artificial one (Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement).
Triggers for a cervical disc replacement surgery:
Any damage to the cervical disc can affect the spinal cord and the neck adversely. A person may need to undergo a disc replacement surgery in case;
- There are pain and stiffness in the neck.
- Pain that gradually spreads into the arms and shoulder.
- One experiences extreme weakness in the arms, legs, hands or shoulders.
- There is a loss of sensation (numbness) or "needle prick" like sensations in the arms.
- There is a headache (moderate to severe).
Advantages of cervical disc replacement:
People have benefitted immensely from cervical disc replacement.
- In comparison to the fusion surgery, disc replacement has a faster recovery time.
- Disc replacement has a higher success rate (remarkable improvement in the shoulder and neck movement).
- It retains the cervical motion.
- It reduces the stress on the spinal cord and spine nerves greatly.
Risks involved in the cervical disc replacement:
With merits come the demerits. Though effective, there are some risks involved in the surgery.
- A person may experience some difficulty in breathing and swallowing of food.
- There may be some reactions to the anesthesia.
- The disc replacement may result in an infection, nerve injury, bleeding or leakage of the spinal fluid.
- Post replacement, there may be a stroke, voice modulation.
- In some unfortunate cases, there may be no improvement in the condition.
- The artificial disc may be affected (fractured or broken).
Recovery and Precaution:
A little alertness and precaution can speed up the recovery process.
- The first three weeks post-surgery, avoid strenuous work.
- For a better recovery, start walking after the surgery. However, do not overdo yourself.
- It is not advisable to start driving immediately after the surgery.
- Avoid rigorous exercise for as long as recommended by the doctor.
- Rest as much as possible.
- In the case of any discomfort, consult your attending physician.
The spine plays a very crucial role, both from a person’s movement and sensation point of view. It carries the nervous supply for a lot of internal organs and the lower body. By virtue of its structure, it also helps in movement through the disks. Due to various reasons, spinal injury is common, causing pain along the back, lower extremities, neck etc.
Medicines and exercise are the first line of treatment for most spinal injuries. The issue, however, is that these only provide relief from the pain and the medicines, but do not actually ‘rectify’ the underlying problem. Whether it is a herniated disk or a pinched nerve, the medicines and exercise can relieve the symptoms, but the disk continues to be herniated and the nerve continues to be pinched. Definite treatment is in the form of surgery, and with recent advancements in the field of spinal surgery, there are minimally invasive surgical options, which provide complete cure with minimal recovery time. Some of the benefits of this are listed below-
Smaller incision compared to traditional surgical procedures, where only the injured area is accessed
The surrounding tissues are untouched, unless they are injured and require repair
Lesser bleeding compared to earlier techniques
Lesser painful procedure
Reduced hospitalization period
Quicker recovery and return to normal activities
The question, however, is whether this is indicated in everybody. A detailed discussion with your surgeon keeping the below points in mind will help identify the answer for this. The main driver should be the answer to the question – will the surgery be able to effectively relieve you of the pain and symptoms? Additionally, the following factors help in getting better results out of a minimally invasive spinal surgery.
Presence of symptoms relating to nerve compression, including pain from the spine down the leg.
Recent onset of symptoms, with pain starting days to months before seeing the doctor. This indicates the condition is relatively new and so damage is minimal, indicating favorable outcome. Chronic pain conditions take slightly longer time compared to recent injuries.
People with active lifestyle who engage in regular physical exercise are likely to have better benefits from the minimally invasive procedure.
Smoking reduces blood flow to the spine, leading to disk degeneration and weakening of bones. Healing is highly slowed down and recovery is overall delayed.
Excessive weight puts strain on the back, and so healing can be delayed or badly affected with more complications. It is not a contraindication, but be prepared for a longer recovery period.