Life After Cervical Disc Replacement: 5 Keys for Recovery
Less Invasive, Better Outcomes
One of a couple treatments for disc problems in the neck, cervical disc replacement (CDR)—in which a damaged disc is replaced with a prosthetic—has made a name for itself in the surgical community. Some studies have even found that, compared to alternatives like anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), this minimally-invasive procedure yields better overall results in the mid to long-term.  Many factors need to be weighed by both doctor and patient, but CDR is certainly worth considering.
No matter how successful the procedure is itself, though, outcomes and relief also depend a great deal on what happens during recovery. Preparation for life after surgery—for the moment you get back from the hospital—is essential. What should you keep in mind? Here are 5 keys to recovery:
1. Make Sure You Have What You Need
Following the procedure, there will be a period of time when you’ll need to wear a specialized neck brace. In addition, you may need other equipment like a cane or walker, as well as benches or tube-seats for the bathroom. A long-handled reacher may also be helpful to avoid strain from trying to get to items that are harder to get to. It may be a good idea to have a physical therapist take a look at your home to see what you might need, and you should also check to see what tools or instruments your insurance covers.
2. Take Care of Transportation Needs
It’s important to remember that following cervical disc replacement there will be a long period during which you should not drive (or really move your head much at all). Make sure you secure transportation back from the hospital when you’re released; have a friend or loved one ready to take you home. Furthermore, during recovery make sure not to drive until you’ve gotten the go-ahead from your doctor.
3. Prepare the Home
Prior to going into surgery, take some steps to ensure your home is ready for your recovery. Here are some quick ideas: 
- Keep phones in convenient, easy-to-reach areas.
- Prepare foods or purchase easy to cook meals.
- Strategically stow away clothes and shoes at easy-to-access heights to avoid bending or reaching.
- As with clothing, put necessary kitchen appliances, pots, pans, and dishes in higher, strategically accessible places to avoid bending.
- Get rid of throw rugs or other trip hazards within the home.
4. Be Mindful of Medications
Following surgery, you’ll be prescribed drugs to help manage pain and inflammation. In some cases, opioids like Percocet or Oxycontin may be indicated to manage discomfort; while these are highly effective, they also are habit-forming and have significant side-effects. Follow directions closely and do your best to minimize use as much as possible. Once you find you no longer need them, return any unused pills to the pharmacy for safe disposal; don’t keep them around the house.
5. Stay Alert
Recovery should be a period of vigilance and care. Not only do you need to make sure you’re following through on any medications or physical therapy, but you should also be paying attention to how you feel. If anything seems off—particularly if there is excessive pain or heat sensations—let your doctor know as soon as possible. Be conservative, too, about what you can and cannot do and try not to rush back into activity, hard as that may be. In this way, you’ll ensure safe recovery.
Getting Back on Track
Clearly, recovery from cervical disc replacement is a process, but the good news is that a vast majority of patients achieve desired results. Complications are rare and satisfaction with the procedure is very high.  However, alongside the procedure and quality of care itself, the patient is a big part of what determines success. By being careful and smart, recovery will be successful, and brighter and pain-free days will return.
If you suffer from neck or spine problems, the team at North American Spine can help. These experts employ the latest and best in minimally-invasive procedures to ensure positive outcomes for their patients. Learn more about what they do by calling 469-638-0208 today!
- Hu, Yan, Guohua Lv, Siying Ren, and Daniel Johansen. 2016. “Mid- To Long-Term Outcomes Of Cervical Disc Arthroplasty Versus Anterior Cervical Discectomy And Fusion For Treatment Of Symptomatic Cervical Disc Disease: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of Eight Prospective Randomized Controlled Trials”. PLoS ONE11 (2): e0149312. Public Library of Science (PLoS). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0149312.
- Todd J. Albert, MD, and MD Thomas G. Lowe. 2018. “Cervical Spine Surgery: Preparation Steps”. Spineuniverse. Accessed November 30 2018. https://www.spineuniverse.com/treatments/surgery/cervical/cervical-spine-surgery-preparation-steps.