Cervical Spine Surgery & Recovery

Written by carol wiley
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Cervical Spine Surgery & Recovery
Recovery from cervical spine surgery usually takes about five weeks. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Josh Pesavento)

Cervical spine surgery is generally considered a last resort if you have neck pain, numbness, tingling, weakness or instability that is not effectively treated by other methods. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), the two most common cervical spine problems are herniation (part of the soft centre of a spinal disk protrudes through the weakened outer part of the disk) and stenosis (narrowing of the cervical spinal canal that compresses the nerves).

Types of Surgery

The exact type of surgery depends on the problem being treated. One of the most common spine surgeries is an anterior cervical diskectomy, in which a disk is removed, according to UMMC. In a cervical spinal fusion, the surgeon fuses the vertebrae (spinal bones) together with a bone graft.

Recovery Time

You may stay in the hospital up to about seven days after surgery with complete recovery taking about five weeks, according to UMMC.

Pain Management

You should talk to your doctor and anaesthesiologist about pain management before surgery, recommends Todd J. Albert, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. After surgery, if you feel that the medicine is not working, talk with your doctor or nurse.


Practice deep breathing exercises as part of your recovery to prevent breathing problems, says Dr. Albert.


Movement is important to prevent circulation problems, such as blood clots (deep vein thrombosis). Hospital staff will probably encourage you to walk the first or second day after surgery.

Expert Insight

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as ibuprofen) can interfere with bone-graft healing, so avoid them for six weeks after surgery if you had a bone graft, according to Dr. Albert.

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