Will the surgery lessen my mobility

Dr. Paul Saiz
Mesa, AZ
One to two level fusions will not cause a significant perceptive change in range of motion. Often, patients will move more after surgery because they hurt less. The reason this occurs is that the remaining motion segments will move more and work harder to make up for the immobilized segments.
Dr. Kevin Yoo
Escondido, CA
Spinal fusion will decrease your mobility, but only by a few degrees. You will hardly notice it at all if you only have one vertebral level fused. If you have two or three levels fused, then you probably notice some loss of mobility. However, many people state that their neck mobility is better after their surgery because they have less neck pain and, as a result, move their neck more.
Dr. Mark R. McLaughlin
Princeton, NJ
Not really for a single-level fusion. We are eliminating a diseased joint. Sure, if we measure your mobility with a protractor after the fusion there may be a few degrees less in freedom, but it is probably not noticeable externally. In fact, because a diseased, painful joint is being eliminated from the spine, patients may feel increased mobility due to diminished pain.
Dr. Brian Subach
Atlanta, GA
In general, 50% of the normal bending and twisting motions of the cervical spine come from the upper two vertebrae. The other 50% comes from the lower cervical levels.
Dr. B. Theo Mellion
Carbondale, IL
A single level instrumented fusion is rarely associated with significant loss of mobility that is noticeable to the patient. Even two level instrumented fusions are rarely associated with loss of mobility, but occasionally people who have some loss of rotation early on usually regain that rotation with time. Three level instrumented fusion or a multi-level corpectomy in the sub-axial cervical spine can be associated with some loss of flexion and some loss of rotation but is generally not disabling and it is rarely a problem especially in a one or two level operation.
Dr. Sebastian Lattuga
Rockville Centre, NY
Usually there is only a small reduction in mobility associated with fusing the spine. The amount of lost motion is dependent upon which vertebrae and how many vertebrae are fused.
Dr. W. Christopher Urban
Glen Burnie, MD
One of the goals of a cervical fusion is to eliminate motion at the affected level. This operation is required to successfully decrease pain, improve neurologic status, and enhance overall function. Typically, this area of the spine already has reduced motion as a result of degenerative changes in the disc and bony structures. After surgery, the motion levels that are above and below the fusion maintain the majority of the neck’s mobility. Postoperatively, many patients actually have improved range of motion as a result of decreased pain and reduced muscle splinting.
Dr. Allan Levi
Miami, FL
There can be some loss of mobility associated with fusion after anterior cervical discectomy. In general, a one-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion has no noticeable restrictions in mobility as perceived by the patient.
Dr. Jeffrey C. Wang
Los Angeles, CA
A cervical fusion will decrease the mobility of the spine at the area of the fusion; however it has been shown that the other areas of the spine will have increased motion which can make up for the loss of motion caused by the spinal fusion.
Dr. Dennis G. Crandall
Mesa, AZ
Each segment in the neck fused results in a 7% loss of motion. For most people, this is not even noticeable. Many patients already do not have much motion of the segments being fused so they would not notice much difference in their ability to move or bend the neck.
Dr. Douglas Slaughter
Mesa, AZ
In some cases with longer fusions of the cervical spine, decreased head/neck range of motion is noted; however, in most single-level fusions the patient will not notice any decrease in mobility or any significant stiffness.
Dr. Timothy C. Ryken
Iowa City, IA
If a fusion is planned, you will lose some motion. How much depends on the number of levels that are fused. Most patients are not significantly affected.
Dr. Moe R. Lim
Chapel Hill, NC
Cervical fusion eliminates motion of the segments being fused. However, mobility is maintained at the other levels. In fact, many patients experience increased mobility after fusion. This happens because, prior to fusion, patients are unable to move their necks well because of pain inhibition. After a successful fusion, these patients are able to move their necks more freely because the pain is eliminated.
Dr. Sean Salehi
Chicago, IL
In the biomechanical sense it does, but in a day-to-day setting, patients do not feel significant loss of motion.
Dr. Mark Testaiuti
Haddonfield, NJ
Your other discs will compensate for one or two levels. There may be more of a noticeable restriction with more than two levels, but still tolerable for most patients. The majority of the rotation and a good deal of even flexion and extension come from the first two vertebrae (C1 and C2), which are usually less involved in this sort of problem.
Dr. Robert S. Pashman
Los Angeles, CA
A single-level fusion does not greatly limit a patient's mobility. With a multilevel fusion, the patient may have some decreased motion.
Dr. Daniel Resnick
Madison, WI
A single-level cervical fusion does not significantly decrease the range of motion of the spine. The amount of flexion / extension that occurs at each individual level is only about 5-10° out of a total excursion of merely 180°. Patients with significant neck and arm pain often had such a limited range of motion because of pain and muscle spasm that their effective range of motion were actually increased by the surgery.
Dr. Joseph Alexander
Winston-Salem, NC
For the typical one- or two-level fusion in the middle of the cervical spine, most patients will not notice any significant reduction in mobility. In most cases, the fusions were being done at cervical levels, which were already degenerated and likely already had decreased mobility. If the fusion has to include the uppermost cervical levels, in those cases, it is more likely that the patient will suffer a noticeable loss in head movement.
Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein
New York, NY
A single level instrumented fusion is rarely associated with significant loss of mobility that's noticeable to the patient. Even two level instrumented fusions are rarely associated with loss of mobility. Occasionally people describe early after surgery some loss of rotation which usually returns with time. Fifty percent of the motion in the spine comes between the skull and the first and the first and the second cervical vertebrae. Three level instrumented fusions or a multi-level corpectomy in the sub-axial cervical spine can be associated with some loss of flexion and some loss of rotation but is generally not disabling and it's rarely a problem especially in the one or two level.
Dr. Randy Davis
Glen Burnie, MD
The vast majority of the time surgery and fusions of the neck do not reduce mobility. This is frequently because the levels that are being operated on are already significantly degenerated and the patient is using their other muscles to splint; so although a patient will frequently have a fused level, there is no evidence that they will have decreased mobility that they can ascertain. Many patients actually say that they feel that they have more mobility once their pain has been decreased.
Dr. Kambiz Hannani
Los Angeles, CA
Each level of fusion you need will reduce your range of motion by approximately 10 percent. However, many neck-pain patients have significant difficulty with moving their necks, so their mobility actually improves compared to before surgery.
Dr. Rick Sasso
Indianapolis, IN
A one-level, anterior cervical fusion will not lessen your mobility. You already have degeneration in that disc. By definition to have a disc herniation, that disc is already degenerated. The most common places where the disc herniates, which are at the C5-C6 or C6-C7 levels, we don't have very much motion in those levels anyway, so you will not notice any significant decreased range of motion with a one-level anterior cervical fusion.
Dr. Theodore A. Belanger
Charlotte, NC
The answer to this question depends upon exactly what the surgery will involve. Generally speaking, fusing a few levels of the spine will not result in a significantly noticeable loss of motion of the neck and head. However, some stiffness after surgery may be experienced, temporarily. Extensive fusions, or fusions that include the upper part of the neck or skull, may significantly reduce neck motion, but these are the exception.
Dr. David S. Baskin
Houston, TX
In general, no. A one level fusion has no effect on mobility, unless there are problems at other levels that already restrict mobility. In my experience, a two level fusion also usually has no effect on mobility, or such a minimal effect that it does not bother patients. A three level fusion or more does reduce your ability to bend you neck forward and backwards.

The commentary above recounts the experiences of these physicians. Medtronic invited them to share their stories candidly. Keep in mind that results vary; not every patient's response is the same. Talk with your doctor to learn more about any products that are mentioned above.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your doctor's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

Published: May 04, 2007
Updated: April 19, 2010