What Are the Main Causes of Neck Pain? (video)

When to consider surgery for herniated discs and other neck pain conditions

When to consider surgery for herniated discs and other neck pain conditions

Timothy Peppers, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Scripps Clinic Encinitas, discusses common causes of neck pain, including herniated discs, as well as symptoms and treatment options, including surgery to relieve pressure on the spinal cord.

Video transcript

What are the main causes of neck pain?

The common ailments that plague people in regard to their neck or their cervical spine are herniated discs, which can compress on a nerve and create arm pain or numbness or weakness.

As patients get older, they may develop a narrowing of the spinal canal that can compress on their spinal cord. This can create some more concerning types of neurological problems.

When does neck pain require surgery?

The most common conditions that a patient undergoes surgery in their neck for are disc herniations, which compress on a nerve and cause arm pain.

Another condition which is very similar would be degenerative narrowing of the nerve space, either an individual nerve or the spinal cord.

The primary goal of these surgeries is to relieve the pressure that is on the nerves or on the spinal cord.

How can surgery fix problems that cause neck pain?

The primary surgeries that we perform for neck problems, particularly disc herniations or narrowing of the nerve spaces, would include opening up that space, or what we call a decompression. The majority of the time that's followed by a fusion because we have to rebuild what we've taken out.

Many times — particularly in younger patients — we're able to do a replacement disc, which allows continued motion, rather than performing a fusion.

How long does it take to recover after neck surgery?

In terms of post-operative recovery from neck surgery, people are up and walking the day of surgery or the day after. Sometimes they may not even stay in the hospital.

Long term recovery may depend on the exact procedure that's done. If a patient doesn't have a heavy labor type of job, they could go back to work in a week or two, as soon as they feel comfortable doing so.

People with more physical jobs, we would want them out of work longer just for complete healing.

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