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Can You Replace a Spinal Disc?

A damaged spinal disc may cause a lot of pain and discomfort. It can even limit your ability to move or function. Spinal discs are made of a tough outer layer of cartilage and a gel-like center. The discs act as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine and help with shock absorption. Unfortunately, when a disc is damaged, it may bulge or rupture, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves and causing pain. Sometimes, the best treatment option is to have an artificial disc replacement.

Why Might You Need To Replace a Spinal Disc?

Not every patient with a damaged spinal disc will need to have a disc replacement. In fact, most patients will be able to find relief through more conservative treatments such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Epidural injections
  • Lifestyle modifications 
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

There are some cases where artificial disc replacement might be the best option, including if:

  • You have a herniated disc that is putting pressure on your spinal cord or nerves, and non-surgical treatments haven’t provided relief
  • You have a disc that has collapsed
  • You have degenerative disc disease (DDD)

What is an Artificial Disc Replacement?

An artificial disc replacement is a surgical procedure that is done to relieve lower back pain as a result of a herniated or damaged disc. Similar to a joint or knee replacement, this type of surgery involves removing the damaged disc and replacing it with an artificial disc. By replacing the disc with an artificial one, patients may regain their range of motion and find pain relief. Artificial disc replacements are becoming increasingly popular and provide patients with an alternative to procedures like spinal fusion.

How Does Artificial Disc Replacement Work?

An artificial disc replacement typically takes two to three hours to complete. During the procedure, your surgeon will use anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain. Your surgeon will then make an incision in your abdomen, allowing access to your lumbar spine. Once the incision is made, the surgeon will remove the damaged disc and insert the artificial disc in its place. In some cases, your surgeon might also need to use bone grafts or other devices to support the artificial disc. When the artificial disc is in place, your surgeon will close the incision, and you will be taken to a recovery room to rest.

What To Expect After the Procedure

After your procedure is complete, you may need to stay in the hospital for two to four days. During this time, a nurse will closely monitor you to make sure you are healing properly. It is essential to stay active after your disc replacement. Therefore, be sure to get up and take a walk around your room and do light stretching as soon as possible after your surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on when you can return to your normal activities.

Depending on how well you respond to the surgery and the severity of your injury, the total recovery time from this procedure may take anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months. Your surgeon will provide you with specific recovery instructions that you will need to follow. Oftentimes, physical therapy and other rehabilitation measures will be recommended to help you regain your strength and range of motion. Remember, before you begin any type of exercise or activity, check with your surgeon or physical therapist first.

Am I a Candidate for Artificial Disc Replacement?

As mentioned above, many patients with damaged spinal discs may be able to find relief through more conservative treatments. However, if you are experiencing persistent pain and other non-surgical treatments have not helped, you might be a candidate for artificial disc replacement. Before it is decided that you need this type of surgery, your surgeon will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. Tests like X-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs may also be ordered to help your surgeon get a better look at the condition of your spine.

After these imaging tests have been reviewed, your surgeon will be able to tell if you are a candidate for disc replacement. Patients with back pain from damaged intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine are most likely to be candidates for this surgery. Furthermore, there are several factors that may make you ineligible for this procedure, including:

  • Being excessively overweight
  • Having a prior spinal surgery
  • Having an infection in the spine
  • Suffering from a spinal deformity such as scoliosis

Revitalize Your Spine With The Spine Pro

Whether you are dealing with a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or another condition that has caused damage to your spine, The Spine Pro can help you restore your quality of life. Through our expert care and cutting-edge treatments, we can help you regain function. If you are interested in learning more about artificial disc replacement or if you think this might be the right treatment for you, contact us today.