An Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement (ACDR) is a surgery performed in the neck region of the spine to remove a damaged intervertebral disc. A damaged cervical disc is often the cause of symptoms in the neck, shoulder, and upper extremity such as pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness. The ACDR procedure removes the damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial disc. Artificial disc surgery is a relatively new and exciting alternative to cervical spinal fusion surgery. Typically, when you restrict spinal motion at one segment, adjacent spinal levels will take on more stress and prematurely break down. Advancement in ACDRs is becoming more popular because the implant allows you to maintain more natural neck motion, preserve the adjacent cervical, and allow for a better long-term success rate when compared to cervical fusion procedures.
The decision for artificial disc replacement vs. cervical fusion is based on many factors and will ultimately be decided between you and your surgeon. While both have favorable outcomes, there are notable differences in rehabilitation from each. The first few weeks after each surgery are focused on pain management and protection. The precautions of no bending, lifting or twisting will last longer after a fusion to ensure fixation of instrumentation and fusion of the bones. This leads to a longer rehabilitation period due to a slower return to normal activities.
Immediately following surgery you can expect some pain and discomfort that should be well managed with medication and gentle activity. In the first 1-2 weeks be sure to follow these guidelines:
You will begin physical therapy in the weeks following surgery depending on your surgeon’s preference. It is important to remember that each patient will have a unique timeline depending on many factors. The goal of early rehabilitation is to reduce pain and inflammation and promote a healing environment. You and your physical therapist will work closely to progress you appropriately. In this stage of rehabilitation, you will be working to gradually restore normal motion, gentle soft tissue techniques, initiate postural and core stability exercises, learn correct body mechanics/lifting techniques and progress your walking program. You will likely be heading back to work and starting to perform light household chores. During this phase, you will need to “listen” to your body and avoid activities that cause an increase in your symptoms. Cervical traction techniques should be avoided following ACDR procedures; especially mechanical traction.
During this stage your precautions will likely be less strict as you gradually build strength and mobility in PT. The goal of this phase is to promote muscular balance and build muscular endurance, capacity, and strength to support your neck through the neck, shoulder girdle, and core. You can expect to begin to perform moderately heavy chores and work with your physical therapist to begin a modified return to recreational activities. For example, a golfer may return to putting and short game work. Running athletes can take advantage of our Aquatic Treadmill before transitioning to a walk/jog progression.
Our goal is not only to restore your general function, but to build resiliency and optimize your movement for a healthy future. The goal of this phase is to promote higher-level function across your entire body, through full body integration exercises, so you can get back to all the activities you wish to pursue. You should expect to continue physical therapy for as long as 3 or more months after your surgery to decrease the likelihood of other injuries and get your body in better condition than your pre-injury state. Athletes and weekend warriors will transition into activity specific training with our Athletic Trainer before they return to sport or higher-level activity. You can expect to return to impact activities around the 3 month mark.
You and your therapist will work together to determine an appropriate return to running program after 6 weeks. Again, it is important to gradually return to running to give your body time to build endurance.
While you can resume your normal activities around the 6 week mark, you will benefit from continued PT for 2-3 months to build up your strength and endurance. Our goal is not only to restore your general function, but to build resiliency and optimize your movement for a healthy future.
We begin utilizing the aquatic treadmill as soon as your surgical incision sites are healed. You will likely be ready to return to swimming after 6-8 weeks but it is important to verify with your doctor and physical therapist.
Yes! We encourage you to continue performing the exercises you learned in PT after you “graduate”. Our rehab staff (PT or athletic trainer) will help you build an exercise routine that fits your goals and lifestyle.
Absolutely. Athletic training is not just for athletes and weekend warriors. Our athletic trainer will help you to improve your movement patterns and develop an exercise routine that fits your goals and lifestyle.