Spinal discs cushion the bones and nerves in your spine. Your spine has 23 discs in total, with 6 in the cervical area (neck), 12 in the mid-back, and 5 in the lumbar area (lower back).
Healthy spinal discs are slick, rubbery pads that absorb shock and give motion to your spine. But all too often, age-related degeneration or acute injury damages a disc and impacts the health of your whole spine.
You shouldn’t try to ignore back or neck pain, especially when you’ve had it for weeks or months. Aron Rovner, MD, and our team at New York Spine and Sports Surgery have experience in tackling and treating pain — even when conservative treatment isn’t working.
If you’re wondering about more advanced treatment for damaged spinal discs, now is the time to learn more about surgical disc replacement.
Preparing for disc replacement surgery
Disc replacement is a type of spinal surgery that removes a damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. There are a variety of FDA-approved artificial discs for different parts of the spine, and many are made with a combination of metal and medical-grade plastics.
Spinal discs are naturally durable, but degeneration and injury can cause discs to herniate. A cervical herniated disc or lumbar herniated disc can develop with years of overuse or as the result of an acute injury.
When a disc herniates, it cracks open and the material inside starts leaking out. The broken disc begins pressing against the nerves in your spine, causing radiating pain. Herniated discs are common, and there are a variety of nonsurgical treatments to try.
Dr. Rovner may recommend disc replacement for cervical herniated discs or lumbar herniated discs in certain cases.
You could be a candidate for disc replacement if you:
- Have back or neck pain caused by 1-2 damaged spinal discs
- Have significantly reduced range of motion
- Haven’t found pain relief with nonsurgical treatment
People who are in generally good health but who are significantly affected by back or neck pain may be good candidates for disc replacement. If you choose surgery, Dr. Rovner gives you specific instructions to prepare for the day of your procedure.
Recovering from disc replacement surgery
Disc replacement surgery may take 2-3 hours. It’s performed under general anesthesia, so you won’t be awake during the procedure.
Dr. Rovner makes a small incision along your spine. We carefully move nerves, tissues, and organs aside to access the damaged disc. Then, Dr. Rovner removes the damaged disc and any tissue that’s compressing spinal nerves. He replaces the disc with an artificial one, and when your surgery is complete, we move you into recovery.
While many people spend a night or two in the hospital following disc replacement, you may be able to go home the same day. Dr. Rovner prescribes pain medication and gives you instructions for at-home care.
Expect to rest and limit your activities for several days once you’re home. Gradually reintroduce gentle exercise, such as walking, to help speed recovery. You’ll continue coming to follow-up appointments with Dr. Rovner, so he can monitor your progress.
Full recovery from cervical disc replacement can take 4-6 weeks. For lumbar disc replacement, recovery may take about 3 months. Dr. Rovner often recommends physical therapy to aid in recovery and pain management.
When you have chronic back or neck pain from damaged spinal discs, having a disc replacement procedure could offer relief. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Rovner at New York Spine and Sports Surgery to get started.