How Effective Is Surgery for Chronic Neck Pain?

How Effective Is Surgery for Chronic Neck Pain?

Even top-level spine surgeons like Dr. Patrick Doherty at Yale Neurosurgery New London prefer conservative treatment to surgery whenever possible. However, an operation may be your preferred choice when your pain doesn’t respond to these therapies.

Dr. Doherty and our New London, Connecticut, team share their expertise about the effectiveness of surgery for chronic neck pain and why they may recommend it.  

Understanding chronic neck pain

Studies available through the National Library of Medicine estimate that 50 million people in the United States struggle with pain that lasts longer than three months, also known as chronic pain. Chronic pain can occur in any muscle group or joint, but areas most often reported as the source of chronic pain include the neck, lower back, hips, and knees.

Muscular strain can undoubtedly affect the neck, often producing that stiffness you notice after falling asleep on the couch. However, this type of discomfort typically responds quickly to cold, alternating with heat packs, over-the-counter pain meds, and posture correction.

Neck pain can also occur when injuries or degenerative changes affect the spine's bones, joints, discs, and nerves. These issues can lead to pain spreading into the head, shoulders, arms, and lower extremities when nerves are involved. Dr. Doherty may recommend anti-inflammatory injections, physical therapy, and other conservative treatments to reduce pain and restore mobility.

However, if the symptoms don’t respond adequately to these conservative treatments, the Yale Neurosurgery team may recommend surgery. Goals for neck surgery include pain relief, better mobility, and improved quality of life. 

How effective is surgery at reducing chronic neck pain?

Every case is different, but Dr. Doherty does not recommend surgery unless he feels the procedure can relieve pressure on the nerves that are causing the pain, restore structural stability to the cervical spine, or decompress the spinal cord.

Surgical procedures Dr. Doherty commonly performs include:

Additionally, Dr. Doherty enhances your chances of successful neck surgery by performing many of these procedures via a minimally invasive approach or robotic surgery

What happens after neck surgery?

Healing and return to full mobility following neck surgery depend on the type of surgery you undergo. Before scheduling your operation, Dr. Doherty discusses details of the procedure and what you can expect afterward.

However, thanks to reduced tissue trauma and increased precision available with robot-assisted and minimally invasive procedures, healing and rehabilitation are generally much faster than with traditional surgery.

Otherwise, Dr. Doherty our team work with you throughout rehab to ensure you gain the expected benefits from neck surgery. 

To learn more about chronic neck pain and the treatments that help, call the office and schedule your evaluation today.

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