Total Disc Replacement Surgery Could Be Right For You

Spinal disc

Without a healthy back, it can be hard to stand, sit, walk, run, or even turn around. For people with degenerative disc disease, some or all of these activities can be painful, or nearly impossible, which can make it hard to live a normal life, doing all the things we need to do within a day. For this reason, many people are turning to total disc replacement surgery (TDR) to help.

Degenerative disc disease occurs when discs in your spine either lose fluid, making them less flexible and reducing their shock absorption capacity, or sustain cracks or tears in the outer shell. These tears can cause oozing of the jelly-like substance within the disc, which results in bulging, rupturing, or splintering. This triggers chronic neck and back pain, stiffness, and even numbness in the limbs.

Many people are hesitant to undergo back or neck surgery, and try to live with the pain seeking alternative treatments, such as massages, acupuncture, and reiki, and additional help from their doctor. While these treatments do alleviate the pain, it is short-lived. For long-lasting relief, TDR, also known as artificial disc replacement, could be the best option.

Total disc replacement surgery involves removing the degenerated disc and replacing it with an artificial one, which is unlike the more commonly known procedure to remove a degenerative disc, called spinal fusion. This treatment removes the degenerated disc, but uses supplementary bone tissue to fuse together the vertebrae without replacing the disc. While these might sound similar, the results are different. In many cases, there is a difference in the range of motion that patients experience after the surgery, because the area surrounding the faulty vertebrae is not immobilized with TDR. This level of motion could be important in maintaining the health and stability of the discs above and below the affected area. In other words, replacing the disc could protect other discs from degenerating as well.

In addition, the procedure and recovery time differ greatly. A spinal fusion can take anywhere form 3 to 10 hours depending on the individual, and the healing period can be up to 4 months. In contrast, TDR surgery can be completed in as little as 1 hour for a simple case, and the recovery time is generally 6 to 8 weeks. Some patients only need a month before they can begin to move normally.

But this surgery is not usually the first recommendation from doctors, as they would prefer not to operate on the spine, since nerve damage is always a risk. The first line of treatment for degenerative disc disease is medication, physical therapy, and sometimes, a spinal injection to relieve the pain. If these do not alleviate the symptoms, surgery could be the only option.

Either way, there is no doubt that total disc replacement surgery has provided relief for patients with severe back pain, and has given them a way to get back to their normal, active lives.
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