Moving on After Cervical Disc Replacement

Woman moving on with her life after cervical disc replacement and practicing light yoga.

Chronic neck pain and nerve pain can make doing the things you love impossible. Can you imagine what it would feel like to have your cervical spine symptoms relieved? With cervical disc replacement, this is truly possible.

Whether your neck pain is a result of an acute injury, or the result of a degenerative change, the experts at Alexander Orthopaedics are here to help.

What is Cervical Disc Replacement?

When nonsurgical spinal procedures have failed, spine surgery can help for treating neck pain, including diseased or degenerated discs.

Cervical disc replacement is a surgical procedure in which a diseased disc in the neck is removed and replaced with an artificial disc. The procedure can alleviate pain and help restore functionality, flexibility, and mobility to the cervical spine.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery?

After cervical disc replacement, most patients can return to activities such as driving and light work within a week or two. A full recovery and the ability to resume more vigorous activities can take as little as 6-12 weeks for many patients.

What is the Success Rate of Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery?

Clinical studies show a 90% success rate for cervical disc replacements. This means that 90% of patients feel improvement of their pain after recovering from cervical disc replacement.

What are some Tips for Healing Faster After Cervical Disc Replacement?

Help speed your recovery by avoiding infections or problems with your incision site:

  • Keep you surgical incision clean and dry
  • Don’t take baths/submerge the incision site in water until the wound is totally healed
  • Do gently clean around the incision site with gentle soap and warm water during the first few days of recovery

You can also aid in your recovery with these healthy choices:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat nutritious meals
  • Avoid dramatic neck movements for the first several days
  • Begin physical therapy, light exercise, and neck stretching and strengthening as soon as your doctor clears you for these activities

How Long Does a Cervical Disc Replacement Last?

Clinical trials indicate that most disc replacements last at least ten years. However, the true lifespan of a cervical disc replacement is still not fully understood.

What Are the Symptoms of a Failed Cervical Disc Replacement?

Instead of the alleviation of pain you’ll feel with a successful cervical disc replacement, a failed disc replacement can result in neck pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and reduced range of motion in the cervical spine. Fortunately, this is uncommon. For the right surgical candidate, artificial disc replacement is shown to have similar long term outcomes as compared to fusion surgery.

Daily Life and Activities After Cervical Disc Replacement

Cervical disc replacements are a powerful treatment because of their ability to give you the chance to live with a fully mobile and potentially pain-free neck — something many patients haven’t experienced in years. Life after cervical disc replacement can be filled with activities that you love — including ones you’ve been avoiding due to neck pain or inflexibility.

What Are Some Methods for Managing Pain After Cervical Disc Replacement?

  • Cervical collar. Some patients wear a collar for the first few days of recovery to inhibit movement. Pain tends to be most intense just after surgery, so keeping the cervical spine stable for the initial recovery phase can help ease pain. While this is not commonly utilized, many patients prefer this “reminder” to take it easy immediately following surgery.
  • Pain medication. Disc replacement patients are prescribed prescription pain medication to take for their pain during the initial recovery period.
  • Physical therapy and light exercise. After the initial recovery period, physical therapy and light exercise such as walking and stretching helps decrease pain and speeds recovery.

What Daily Activities Are Safe After Cervical Disc Replacement?

Most patients can resume normal activities like driving, light walking, and light work, after a week or two of recovery.

For more vigorous activities and heavy-lifting, wait until you’re fully recovered within 12 weeks for most patients. Once you’ve fully recovered, you’ll be able to safely resume all of your previous activities, including ones you had been avoiding due to pain.

What Are Some Tips for Sleeping Comfortably After Cervical Disc Replacement?

Some patients find that sleeping propped with extra pillows or in a reclining chair feels most comfortable for the first several days after the operation.

However, you might feel comfortable returning to your normal sleeping position. Just avoid sleeping on your abdomen (with your head rotated all the way on its side) — this position places the most stress on your cervical spine.

Is it Safe to Travel After Cervical Disc Replacement?

It’s safe to travel short distances by car after your surgery — but don’t drive if you’re taking pain medications or muscle relaxers.

Don’t plan on flying until you’ve been cleared at your first post-operative appointment — usually about a week into your recovery.

Are There Permanent Restrictions After Cervical Disc Replacement?

For the vast majority of patients, there are no permanent restrictions after cervical disc replacement. In fact, cervical disc replacement, unlike other procedures such as spinal fusions, improves our pain symptoms without inhibiting the spine’s natural function. Therefore, after the initial recovery period, you should be able to return to an active, normal lifestyle.

Exercising After Cervical Disc Replacement

Once you’ve fully recovered from cervical disc replacement (generally within 12 weeks), you’ll be able to resume all of the exercise and sports activities you love. Even before your full recovery, beginning light cardio exercise like walking, as well as simple neck stretches, can be a helpful part of your healing path back to full functionality.

When Is it Safe to Resume Sports or Other Physical Activities After Cervical Disc Replacement?

By the third week after cervical disc replacement, most patients are able to begin light exercise and physical therapy. Talk with your doctor as you recover to ensure you’re taking on the right amount of activity as you heal.

Returning to more vigorous exercise or competitive sports can take 12 weeks or more. As with any surgery or major injury, it’s important for athletes to return to play slowly to ensure the body can fully regain their strength, flexibility, and stamina for return to their sport.

Is Weightlifting Safe After Cervical Disc Replacement?

Avoid lifting anything heavy, including groceries or other household items, for the initial recovery period (a minimum of 1-2 weeks).

If weightlifting is a normal part of your exercise routine, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about when you can resume lifting. After you’ve made a full recovery, you’ll be able to resume normal weightlifting activities.

What is the Best Exercise After Cervical Disc Replacement?

Neck extension and flexion, shoulder mobility exercises, and neck stretches are highly recommended after cervical disc replacement.

After a few weeks of rest and recovery, meet with a physical therapist to learn targeted rehab exercises to strengthen the muscles of your neck.

Once you’re fully recovered, you can return to your favorite forms of exercise, but keep neck stretching and strengthening as part of your routine with a yoga class or regular stretching routine.

How to Improve Your Quality of Life After Cervical Disc Replacement

Since cervical disc replacement removes the source of your neck pain, your quality of life should improve after the procedure and initial recovery.

Imagine how good it will feel to have a flexible, supple neck while you’re performing daily activities like driving, turning to talk to a friend, or looking both directions before crossing the street.

While the cervical disc replacement should improve your quality of life, you can aid in the improvement and recovery process by staying hydrated, eating nutritious meals, and participating in physical therapy and light exercise as soon as your body is ready.

Schedule Your Appointment at Alexander Orthopaedics Today!

Recovering after any surgery can be challenging. The specialists at Alexander Orthopaedics are here to guide your recovery so that you can enjoy the full flexibility and functionality of your neck and spine after cervical disc replacement.

Schedule an appointment with the experts at Alexander Orthopaedics today.