Having damaged or worn discs replaced in your neck can ultimately lead to a more productive life as distracting pain either goes away entirely or reaches a point where it’s manageable. What’s more, cervical disc replacement often means retaining natural range of motion. Before you can fully reap the rewards of this procedure, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind as you recover. If they’re having artificial disc replacement surgery, Santa Monica patients should follow these tips for a faster and more comfortable recovery.
For a short time, you’ll be wearing a neck brace to prevent excessive neck movement. Usually it’s a soft one, but your doctor will recommend a type of brace that’s appropriate for you. To further maintain your stability, you may be advised to use a cane or walker. Most insurance policies cover such things, but double-check with your own provider to make sure. You may also benefit from the following items as you recover:
• A long-handled grasping device to help you reach items in higher spots
• A water bottle with a flexible straw so you don’t have to lean forward as you sip
• A cervical (neck) pillow to keep excess pressure off your neck as you sit or rest
As you recover from cervical disc replacement, it’s important not to do anything that may jostle your neck, such as attempting to drive a car. Make arrangements for transportation to and from your follow-up appointments. If possible, ask a friend or family member to run errands for you so you don’t have to keep getting into and out of a vehicle. Finally, don’t start driving on your own again until given the go-ahead from your surgeon.
Even if you have minimally invasive cervical disc replacement surgery, there will be a period when you’ll need to recover at home, so you’ll want to make things as safe and convenient as possible. Before you have your surgery, do a walk-through around your home. Remove loose throw rugs and other trip, slip, or fall hazards. Home prep can also involve:
• Placing your phone/devices in easy-to-reach places
• Preparing meals in advance so you can just heat them up or using a local meal delivery service for a few weeks
• Rearranging your closet so you don’t have to reach and stretch when picking out your clothes and getting dressed
• Putting commonly used items (e.g., pots and pans, TV remote, etc.) in accessible places so you won’t have to bend
• Getting a stand for your laptop if you plan to do some work at home so you’re not leaning forward or bending your head as you use it
After you’re released from the hospital or surgical center, you’ll need to take pain medications for a brief time to manage post-surgical discomfort. Some of these meds are strong opioids that can be habit-forming if you’re not careful with dosages. Follow instructions for meds carefully, and stop taking them when you no longer need them. Return any unused pills to your local pharmacy for proper disposal.
Another important part of the cervical disc replacement recovery process is being alert. If you notice an uptick in your discomfort, experience any sudden pain around the area where you had your surgery, or develop unusual symptoms such as heat sensations or numbness, let your doctor know ASAP. Also, be realistic about what you can and cannot do as you recover. Lastly, check with your doctor before you fully resume your normal home and work routines.
If you plan to have neck surgery, make sure it’s performed by a trusted Santa Monica spine surgeon. Patients can place their trust in Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons. Call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.