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Treatments for Cervical Disc Disease: Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Safe to Use Over-the-Counter Painkillers?

Although over-the-counter painkillers are generally safe, use them with caution and only under your doctor's guidance. Taking excessive amounts of acetaminophen can damage the liver, even at the recommended dose. If taken with alcohol, acetaminophen can damage the kidneys as well as the liver, so avoid all alcohol. NSAIDs also can have side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, and liver and kidney damage, especially when used for long periods of time. Read the package directions carefully and don't take any more than the label suggests and your doctor recommends. Avoid alcohol use if you are taking NSAIDs because it can increase the risks of liver problems.

Could I Become Addicted to Prescription Painkillers?

It is possible to become addicted to narcotic painkillers, which is why some doctors are reluctant to prescribe them. But opioid medications such as codeine, acetaminophen and hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lortab), or aspirin and oxycodone (Percodan) can be appropriate if over-the-counter medications aren't relieving your pain. When making the decision to use narcotic drugs, you and your doctor should carefully weigh the risks of these drugs against their benefits. Follow your doctor's advice and take the medication only as prescribed.

How Long Will It Take me to Recover From a Herniated Disc or Degenerative Disc Disease?

Recovery times for a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease vary from person to person, depending on the extent of your cervical disc disease and the type of treatment you're using. For most people, conservative treatments such as medication or physical therapy will improve their symptoms within about six weeks.

Do I Need Surgery to Treat my Neck Pain From a Herniated Disc or Degenerative Disc Disease?

You might be a good candidate for surgery if your neck pain is severe and hasn't responded to conservative treatment after more than six to eight weeks, or if you have pain, numbness, or weakness in your shoulders, arms, or hands. However, most people with these conditions improve with conservative care.

There are many types of disc replacement and fusion surgeries to treat a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. How well you do after surgery will depend on your age, diagnosis, and the type of procedure you have. But the majority of people with cervical disc disease who require surgery do get relief. Even after a successful surgery, however, it is possible to develop a herniated disc disease above or below the previously affected disc.

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