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Artificial Disc Replacement: The Future Solution For Neck Pain

By October 16, 2009 - 3:54pm

By Alison Stanton / EmpowHer Writer

For many people, life is literally a pain in the neck.

Every day, from the moment they wake up until they go to bed at night, millions of folks around the world suffer from ongoing discomfort. In many cases, the pain is due to disc problems or abnormalities in the neck. In addition to neck pain, these disc issues can also cause the discomfort to radiate into the shoulders and/or arms.

Before continuing, let’s stop for a minute and talk about how the neck is made and why disc problems can lead to pain. Basically, the cervical spine, or neck area, is made up of what are called “vertebral bodies”. These are like blocks made up of bone. In between these blocks are the intervertebral discs, whose job is to hang out in between the bony blocks and act like shock absorbers.

Problems begin to arise then when something goes wrong with one of discs. Over time, they can wear out, just like a shock absorber in your car, which in turn leads to pain. This problem is called “degenerative disc disease,” and can include cervical (or neck) disc herniations. In plainer English, this means that the discs in your neck become flattened, damaged, and/or herniated into the spinal area nearby, thus leading to pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

So, if you are experiencing neck pain that does not go away, it’s probably a good idea to head to your physician for a physical exam. The good news is that in most cases, degenerative disc disease can get better over time, with a combo platter of treatments including physical therapy, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like Advil, and hot/cold therapy. In fact, about 90 percent of patients with this issue usually feel better within about a month to a month and a half following these procedures.

But what about the remaining 10 percent who do not respond to these treatments? For them, cervical spine surgery may be the answer. Traditionally, the suggested surgery for disc disease often involved fusing the damaged areas together. But a new treatment is currently being tested that involves taking out the old disc and replacing it with an artificial disc. Ideally, with this procedure, patients should still retain the range of motion in the affected area.

There are currently many artificial discs that are undergoing approval by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some of them are in the clinical trial stage. In time, this procedure may be approved in the United States. Successful trials have already been completed in Europe.

When our shock absorbers become worn out in our vehicles, we replace them. Basically, an artificial cervical disc replacement would accomplish the same goals, only inside the neck instead of under the hood. Stay tuned as we bring you updates on this procedure and if and when it is approved in our country. As clinical studies indicate so far, this procedure should bring welcome relief to those who suffer from chronic neck pain that does not respond to traditional treatments.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.