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When would I need surgery for a herniated disk or degenerative disk disease?

ANSWER

You might be a good candidate for surgery if your neck pain is severe and hasn't gotten better after a few months of treatment, or if you have pain, numbness, or weakness in your shoulders, arms, or hands. Most people don’t need it, though, because other treatments work.

If you do need surgery, there are many types of disk replacement and fusion surgeries to treat a herniated disk or degenerative disk disease. How well you do after surgery will depend on your age, diagnosis, and the type of procedure you have.

SOURCES:

JAMA: “Aminotransferase elevations in healthy adults receiving 4 grams of acetaminophen daily: a randomized controlled trial.”

FDA: "Safety concerns associated with over-the-counter drug products containing analgesic/antipyretic active ingredients for internal use."

K. Daniel Riew, MD, Mildred B. Simon Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, professor of neurologic surgery, and director of the Orthopaedic Spine Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis.

Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Surgical management of cervical radiculopathy,” “Cervical Radiculopathy.”

Spine: “Complications and mortality associated with cervical spine surgery for degenerative disease in the United States.”

News release, FDA.

Cedars-Sinai: “Herniated or Ruptured Disk.”

Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler on December 24, 2018

SOURCES:

JAMA: “Aminotransferase elevations in healthy adults receiving 4 grams of acetaminophen daily: a randomized controlled trial.”

FDA: "Safety concerns associated with over-the-counter drug products containing analgesic/antipyretic active ingredients for internal use."

K. Daniel Riew, MD, Mildred B. Simon Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, professor of neurologic surgery, and director of the Orthopaedic Spine Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis.

Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Surgical management of cervical radiculopathy,” “Cervical Radiculopathy.”

Spine: “Complications and mortality associated with cervical spine surgery for degenerative disease in the United States.”

News release, FDA.

Cedars-Sinai: “Herniated or Ruptured Disk.”

Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler on December 24, 2018

NEXT QUESTION:

Does surgery always work for a herniated disk or degenerative disk disease?

WAS THIS ANSWER HELPFUL

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

    This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

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