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Knowing When to Consider Neck (Cervical Spine) Surgery

You have pain. Perhaps you have experienced the sensation of a “pinched nerve.” Maybe you feel shooting pain or numbness down the arms and hands. Perhaps you have cramping or heaviness while walking. At this point, a doctor has probably mentioned a condition of the cervical (neck) spine. Now what? Obviously surgery is the biggest commitment among all treatment options. Making that decision is difficult, especially knowing that there are alternative treatments.

Making a Decision About Cervical Spine Surgery

Here are some ways to feel more confident about your decision regarding cervical (neck) surgery:

  1. Make sure your diagnosis is correct.

Some surgeons may immediately recommend surgery for pain, but how do you know that your pain is caused by a spinal condition? The first step is to find the source of pain. Extra precaution can only help. We recommend looking at your patient history records, getting a physical exam, and examining imaging tests (like an MRI, CT-scan, or X-ray). If all of these tests align to indicate a spinal condition, then your diagnosis is very likely correct.

  1. Educate yourself.

A medical professional should be delivering accurate medical information. However, sometimes this information seems complex or confusing. It can be especially difficult when anxiety about surgery has clouded your ability to soak in information. As a patient, you have the right to educate yourself. We recommend exploring our educational videos on cervical herniated discs or cervical stenosis. You can also read the video summaries.

  1. Try other solutions.

For many patients, surgery may be the only solution to pain. Before looking into surgery, you should try other, more conservative treatments, such as exercising or taking anti-inflammatory drugs. If those are not effective at treating your level of pain, then surgery is probably necessary for relief. Treatments should also align with long-term goals. If your neck is having issues with flexibility and movement, then a neck brace won’t be useful and may even be backtracking.

  1. Look at factors that your doctor may be forgetting.

Unlike many other practices, we take a holistic approach. Before surgery, we test for factors like bone density and vitamin D blood levels.

  1. Ask your surgeon about success rates.

Ask your surgeon as many questions as you need to feel good about your treatment. Ask about the surgery you need- find out your surgeon’s success rates and rates of complication.

Minimally Invasive Cervical Surgery

Cervical spine surgery is a big decision, but it shouldn’t be feared. For one, spine surgery has undergone significant improvements in the past several years. Although minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has been around for many years, the meaning of MIS has evolved and improved. At our practice, “minimally invasive” is not just a buzzword. The staff at Pacific Spine Specialists are firm believers in minimally invasive techniques, as these can reduce the number and length of incisions, speed up recovery time, and achieve results.

Another source of peace is knowing that you are in good hands. Dr. Keenen is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon. Throughout his career, he has performed thousands of spine surgeries, ranging from simple to complex. His experience with minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is vast. Additionally, MIS is an integral part of Dr. Keenen’s surgical philosophy. His intention is to provide the right surgery at the right time with the shortest recovery.

If you have been told that you need cervical spine surgery, consider a consultation with our staff at Pacific Spine Specialists. We also welcome patients who have considered surgery on their own accord. Contact us at our Toalatin, OR office. We treat orthopedic patients from all over the Portland area.

  • Oregon Medical Association
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • Scoliosis Research Society
  • North American Spine Society