Can You Move Your Neck Normally After Cervical Fusion?

When the vertebrae in your cervical spine have begun to deteriorate, your doctor might recommend a specialized cervical fusion procedure to repair the damage and prevent further pain. Many people worry that fusing the vertebrae together will limit their mobility and prevent them from moving their neck and head normally after the surgery, but that is not normally the case. Here’s what you need to know about fusion surgery and mobility.

Your Doctor Will Preserve Your Range of Motion

The goal of fusion surgery is to stop the vertebrae from rubbing together and prevent damage to the surrounding nerves. However, most people only have one or two joints that are badly affected, while the others remain in good condition. If this is the case, the goal is to stop the bad joints from causing pain while allowing the rest of the vertebrae to pick up the slack.

Cervical vertebrae are smaller than the vertebrae lower down the spine, which means that even if a couple of them are fused together, you still have many additional joints that are able to move normally. Unless your doctor gives a specific reason for limiting your range of motion after surgery, they will work diligently to protect the surrounding vertebrae and ensure that you are still able to move your head and neck freely.

The Location of Your Cervical Fusion Matters

If you think about the way your neck works, you’ll quickly realize that most of the motion happens near the top of the spine at the base of the skull. Unless you are performing a specific exercise or motion, you rarely have occasion to touch your ears to your shoulders or your chin to your chest. In other words, the upper vertebrae account for the majority of your motion, while the lower vertebrae are more for stabilization.

Interestingly enough, it is the lower vertebrae that typically end up damaged and need to be fused. Your upper vertebrae may not be affected at all by the surgery, and it is possible that with less pain in the lower part of your neck, your mobility can increase.  

Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions Carefully

The most critical time for your neck to heal is immediately after your surgery. Your doctor will give you a list of movements and exercises to work through which are designed to keep the area from growing stiff from disuse, as well as a pain management protocol to get you through the first few days. Proper stretching and normal movement after surgery will help rebuild the muscles around the vertebrae and strengthen your neck, protecting you from future injuries.

If you’re worried about the effects of fusion surgery on your ability to move normally, the good news is that you’re probably safe. While fusion sounds scary, the truth is that this surgery can help you regain lost mobility by stopping the source of your pain and rebuilding the strength in your neck and shoulders. To learn more about spinal fusions and how they work, contact Dr. Spayde at St. Charles Spine today.

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