Why cervical spinal surgery offers quick recovery for most patients

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ginger Arnold has dealt with neck pain for nearly twenty years. She was injured in a car accident when her car was rear ended.

"It would get very tight, so I couldn't move my neck like I needed to," Arnold said.

While she tried physical therapy and injections for several years, this past fall, her condition became crippling.

"I was sitting at work and literally the left side of my neck collapsed," Arnold said. "The bones just avalanched down the left side of my neck, which was very debilitating."

Arnold needed three discs in her cervical spine replaced, a procedure that she feared would be risky and invasive.

Ginger Arnold

Ginger Arnold

Dr. Ryan Gocke, MD, a spinal surgeon with Chippenham Hospital, says cervical spinal surgery can be a seamless procedure with a quick recovery time.

"The surgery that we do involves going in through the neck, through a relatively small incision," Gocke said. "We don't have to disrupt any muscles."

Physicians are able to take out discs that have deteriorated or collapsed and either perform a bone graft substitute or a cervical disc replacement.

"Both of these options are designed to decompress the nerves and treat the nerve pain that radiates into the shoulders and down the arms," Gocke said.

Most patients spend one night in the hospital and make a complete recovery in about six weeks. However, many are able to return to normal activities within hours of their surgery.

Dr. Ryan Gocke

Dr. Ryan Gocke

"We typically don't have long term or short term restrictions," Gocke said. "They can pretty much engage in all actives in daily living right afterward."

Arnold says she's completely healed and heading back to work, feeling like her old self, except this time, with no pain or discomfort.

"It's gotten so much better and it's only been seven weeks since I had my surgery," Arnold said. "I can talk, I can do whatever I need to do at this point. It's very exciting and I'm very grateful to Dr. Gocke."

Working For Your Health is a partnership with HCA Healthcare. Serving the greater Richmond area, Chippenham, Henrico Doctors’, Johnston-Willis, Parham Doctors’, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospital are part of HCA Virginia. Watch for Working For Your Health reports Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 7 p.m.

Watch for Working For Your Health reports on CBS 6.

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