Your spine is a complex and critical part of your body. Running from the base of your skull to your pelvis, it serves as a flexible yet sturdy pillar that supports your body’s weight and protects your spinal cord. Between each bony vertebra of your spine are tough ligaments called discs that act as shock absorbers and hold your spine together. When one or more of these discs starts to wear down, it can cause severe back pain, numbness, tingling and difficulty sitting.
Disc degeneration is fairly common as we age, considering the cumulative weight our body endures over the years. Usually, the pain that accompanies it is manageable by using non-surgical methods such as anti-inflammatory medication, exercise, or physical therapy. And sometimes, the pain associated with it subsides once the disc has fully degenerated.
However, that process could take years or never even happen. In the meantime, you may find yourself dealing with increasingly severe pain and muscle spasms that limit your normal activities. That leaves two surgical options. One is a spinal fusion which involves fusing two vertebrae together. However, this inhibits some movements and flexibility. The other option that is becoming more commonplace is artificial disc replacement.
Besides relieving pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root, the purpose of an artificial disc is to preserve motion in the disc space. It is a device inserted between to cervical vertebrae after an inter-vertebral disc has been removed. The main benefits of artificial disc replacement include:
- It provides increased range of motion and flexibility following surgery. With artificial disc replacement, each vertebral disc can continue to move and shift as necessary without being bonded to another vertebra. It serves as an alternative to bone grafts, plates and screws involved in a fusion that eliminates motion at the operated disc space.
- It helps reduce damage to or degeneration of other discs. Acting like any other healthy disc, the new artificial disc will take some of the pressure off adjacent discs that were stressed because of the replaced disc before surgery.
- It is a less invasive surgical option than a fusion operation. As a result, it provides a reduced and less painful period of recovery time for the patient and a faster return to normal activity.
- It results in fewer post-surgery complications. Several comprehensive clinical studies have shown positive outcomes for artificial disc replacement patients, as well as fewer instances of a need for revision surgery.
Despite its many advantages, artificial disc replacement is not for everyone. For example, patients whose bones have been severely weakened due to osteoporosis or aging may not be approved for the operation. A spine or orthopedic specialist can assess whether you are a viable candidate for artificial disc replacement surgery.
At Front Range Spine and Neurosurgery, we believe that an informed patient is the best patient. We practice comprehensive, patient-centered care designed to help you achieve the best possible outcomes. If you’re experiencing neck, back, or leg pain, call us today at (303) 790-1800 or use our online form to request an appointment.