If you have neck pain with neurological symptoms (cervical radiculopathy), you’re likely to reach a point where you can either opt for surgery or continue with non-operative treatments. A common surgical solution is anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), involving the removal of the herniated disc causing the neck pain through an incision in the front of the neck. There are pros and cons associated with both options that are worth considering.
ACDF for Neck Pain
ACDF is performed to relieve spinal cord or nerve root pressure that’s causing general muscle weakness in the neck or corresponding numbness and tingling. Fusion surgery is simultaneously performed to preserve the stability of the neck after the offending disc is removed, which can limit neck movement. However, ACDF itself is considered a minimally invasive procedure due to the way in which the spine is accessed, with the following benefits often observed in patients:
• Less postoperative pain
• Reduced healing time
• Excellent success rates*
*Success rates for ACDF are currently greater than 90 percent.
Physical Therapy for Neck Pain
ACDF only becomes an option if conservative treatments aren’t working for the patient. It’s then up to the patient to determine if they wish to continue with PT rather than opt for surgery. The goal of PT for neck pain is to increase muscle strength to reverse muscle weakness that may be increasing pressure on nerves. Manipulations and exercises performed by physical therapists that may help with neck pain include:
• Traction to increase spaces between cervical vertebra
• Muscle manipulation to relieve tension and stiffness
• Practicing correct neck positioning to improve posture
Factors like stress and underlying health issues can affect the outcome of ACDF. However, there are no significant influencing factors associated with physical therapy for neck pain.
As with any instance of neck pain, the ultimate decision on the best course of treatment comes down to what’s right for the patient. Since physical therapy involves highly personalized sessions, it’s possible that different techniques may be effective for a period of time. When PT and other non-surgical options fail to provide lasting relief, however, ACDF is worth considering, especially given the increased accuracy of the procedure.
If you’re unsure about what treatment options are right for you, contact The Spine Institute at (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation with a board-certified spine surgeon. The path to a pain-free life starts here.