Surgery is rarely needed for neck pain. It may be an option when:
- A neck injury causes a fracture or abnormal motion (instability). Surgery may be done to stabilize the spine and prevent a bone fracture from causing instability and possible paralysis.
- Pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord causes numbness or arm, hand, or leg weakness; severe pain that lasts for months; or loss of bladder or bowel control. Pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord may be caused by problems such as a narrowing of the spinal canal (cervical spinal stenosis), arthritis of the neck (cervical spondylosis), or a herniated disc in the neck.
- Discectomy (with or without fusion). The surgeon removes herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord.
- Cervical spinal fusionCervical spinal fusion. Selected bones in the neck are joined (fused) together.
- Spinal decompressionSpinal decompression. Pressure is reduced on the spinal cord or spinal nerve roots by removing part of a bone or disc.
Some people can consider artificial disc replacement instead of spinal fusion. This surgery is currently just for carefully selected patients, and it is done by specially trained surgeons. Doctors have not yet done long-term studies to know how well this works over time.