Cervical degenerative disc occurs when the spinal disc near the neck becomes damaged. Pain from cervical degenerative disc disease can be alleviated through self-care and non- surgical options. However, in case the pain does not subside, surgery may be required.
In this article, we will look at both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for cervical degenerative disc disease.
Doctors may recommend pain-relieving medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or others for cervical disk pain. If the pain-relieving medications do not provide pain relief, doctors may recommend stronger medications such as muscle relaxants medication Vicodin or oral steroids. Also, doctors may recommend injections such as cervical facet injection or an epidural steroid injection to deliver medications directly to the affected area.
Certain actions like craning the neck when looking at the computer or mobile screen, flexing the neck forward when driving, or slouching when standing can cause damage to the cervical spinal disc. Modifying actions to refrain from such actions will result in reduced pain.
In addition, eating a healthy diet and remaining hydrated will help reduce cervical degenerative disc pain. Quitting smoking can also reduce the intensity of pain caused due to cervical spinal disc pain.
Apply heat or ice pack to the area of the neck where pain occurs can also provide relief. The ice is usually covered with a cloth to avoid skin burning.
Physical therapy can help reduce neck pain. A physical therapist may recommend stretching exercise to get relief from pain. The physical activity aims to increase the flexibility and strength of the neck. This can result in reduced pain.
Massage therapy can also help provide relief from pain. It improves circulation that results in less intensity of pain. Depending on the symptoms, an imaging study and a physical exam can be done before starting the massage therapy to ensure effective pain relief.
Persistent pain or difficulty while carrying out activities caused due to disc degeneration may require surgery. Surgery may also be necessary in case the doctor thinks that permanent disc damage can occur if the condition is not treated.
Doctors may recommend surgery if the pain is not released after about six months of nonsurgical options. Surgery may also be recommended if the neck pain is coupled with radiculopathy or cervical instability.
Two common surgical options that are used for the treatment of cervical degenerative disc disease include the following.
Cervical artificial disc replacement involves removing the affected disc. The damaged disc is replaced with an artificial disc. This option is taken when posterior facets undergo minimal arthritic changes.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) are carried out through the front of the neck. It involves removing the damaged disc, then decompressing the spinal nerve root, and inserting a metal cage device or a bone graft to treat the condition.
Neck surgery has a high rate of success for relieving pressure from nerve roots. But surgery has a low success rate in case the pain is only in the neck. In case the disc space is not the cause of the pain, it’s better to persist with nonsurgical options.
However, neck surgery has a lower success rate for relieving pain that is only in the neck itself.4 If the disc space cannot be verified as the probable pain generator, it may be reasonable to avoid surgery and keep trying various types of non-surgical care to manage the pain.