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Treatments for Cervical Disc Disease: Frequently Asked Questions

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.

What New Treatments Are on the Horizon for Herniated Discs or Degenerative Disc Disease?

One new herniated disc treatment is already available. In 2007, the FDA approved the first implantable artificial disc for cervical disc replacement surgery. The artificial disc may improve pain while preserving range of motion in the neck. But long-term studies are still needed. Today, scientists are also looking at ways to slow or even reverse the degenerative process to help protect discs from damage before it occurs.

Once I Recover, What Precautions Can I Take to Prevent Another Injury?

To help prevent future neck problems, stretch your neck regularly and perform aerobic exercises (for example, walking, swimming, or biking) for at least 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. If you smoke, quit. Pay attention to your posture, whether you're standing, sitting, or lying down. Always hold your neck straight and keep your back well supported.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 02, 2014
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