Cervical spinal fusion is a surgery that involves removal of a bulging or herniated disc in the neck (cervical spine), placement of a supportive cage/implant and bone graft material to replace the disc, and the fusing of adjacent vertebrae with plates, rods, and screws. To ensure success of this surgery, the recovery process can be just as important as the procedure itself, so it’s helpful to know how you can make your rehabilitation process less arduous and restore your spine to optimum health.
Main Goals of Neck Fusion for Degenerative Spine Conditions
When performed to treat a degenerative spine condition, the main goal of cervical spinal fusion is to relieve neck pain caused by arthritic joints, damaged intervertebral discs, and/or compression of the spinal cord or its nerve roots. To achieve these goals, proper bone fusion and healing is necessary, so your recovery should involve:
- Adhering closely to your surgeon’s postoperative instructions
- Taking pain medication and anti-inflammatory drugs as directed
- Wearing a neck brace as directed
- Attending physical therapy sessions and completing exercises on your own
- Avoiding smoking tobacco
- Avoiding excessive head twisting or turning, as well as heavy lifting
Find Out If a Minimally Invasive Procedure is Right for You
Perhaps one of the best ways to ensure a less arduous recovery following cervical spinal fusion is to undergo a minimally invasive procedure instead of open spine surgery. Minimally invasive (or endoscopic) procedures involve small incisions and little disruption to the cervical soft tissues instead of the large incisions and muscle dissection required in open spine surgery. The less invasive nature of endoscopic procedures typically allows most patients to recover faster and with less postoperative pain than a highly invasive open spine surgery would allow.
Ask Your Physician & Do the Research
As you consider undergoing cervical spinal fusion to treat your neck pain, be sure to talk openly with your physician and ask about what you can expect during the recovery process, as well as all the risks and benefits associated with your chosen procedure. The more you research and understand the circumstances surrounding your surgery, the better your chances of having a smooth recovery.