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When a Disc Replacement Might Be Necessary

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

Herniated and ruptured discs are a relatively common cause of back pain and neck pain that gets more common as we age. Accidents like falls, workplace injuries, or car crashes can cause some disc issues, but a lot of disc problems happen from years of wear and tear along with age-related changes in the discs and spine.

While some disc symptoms can be relieved with nonsurgical treatments, serious disc issues may need a more intensive approach to relieve painful symptoms, including state-of-the-art disc replacement surgery.

At Woodbury Spine, Evan O’Brien, MD, Chris Hennessey, PA-C, and our team specialize in disc replacement surgery, using advanced techniques to relieve your nagging pain and restore spinal function in your back or neck. If you have back or neck pain that just won’t go away, disc replacement could be the solution you’re looking for.

Disc anatomy 101

Discs are spongy “dividers” that separate each pair of spine bones (vertebrae). Healthy discs are plump, composed of a tough outer layer (the annulus) covering a gel-like center portion (the pulposus).

Discs work like tiny shock absorbers, protecting your vertebrae and your spinal cord from jolts. Plus, they help your spine stay flexible, allowing you to twist and flex your back and neck in different ways.

If a disc slips out of place (or herniates), it can press on nerves and cause pain and other symptoms in your back and neck, along with symptoms radiating into your arms or legs. As we get older, discs lose some of their plumpness, increasing the risk of disc-related problems.

Disc replacement surgery

Sometimes called total disc replacement surgery, artificial disc replacement does just what the name implies: It removes the old, damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc made of biocompatible materials designed to “work” very much like a natural disc.

During surgery, Dr. O’Brien uses a special imaging system to remove the damaged disc and precisely position the new, artificial disc in its place. After confirming optimal disc placement, he closes the incision. The entire procedure typically takes 2-3 hours.

Following your surgery, most patients can return to work in about a week, but if your job is physically demanding, you may need to take more time off. Recovery takes a few months. Physical therapy can help speed healing and restore movement in your spine.

Disc replacement candidates

While disc replacement can be a great choice for some patients, it’s not always the best treatment for all sorts of back or neck pain. Typically, disc replacement surgery is reserved for patients who:

  • Have symptoms that interfere with daily life

  • Don’t respond to noninvasive, conservative treatments

  • Do not have a spine deformity like scoliosis

  • Do not have osteoporosis or facet joint disease

  • Are not excessively overweight

If you have a disc problem, but you’re not a candidate for artificial disc replacement, Dr. O’Brien may suggest another surgery, like microscopic disc surgery or spinal fusion to relieve your symptoms.

Find relief for your painful symptoms

Back and neck pain can take a big toll on your life and your activities. Dr. O’Brien and our team at Woodbury Spine are skilled in different types of spine treatments, so your care plan can be completely customized based on your needs.

To learn more about disc replacement surgery and other treatments at our practice in Woodbury, New Jersey, call or book an appointment online today.

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