FAQs


Will I have pain after my surgery

Dr. Douglas Slaughter
Mesa, AZ
Everyone will have some level of discomfort after surgery. This is usually very short lived. Physical therapy usually helps to decrease this even further to the point where most patients do not have significant discomfort after neck surgery.
Dr. Timothy C. Ryken
Iowa City, IA
Yes. Even if the pain you were noting before surgery is altered or improved, you will have incision pain which can often be severe. Almost everyone improves, but it may take several weeks.
Dr. Theodore A. Belanger
Charlotte, NC
All surgery causes pain, but this is controlled with pain medications. Your spine specialist will be well aware of your need for pain medicine after surgery.
Dr. David S. Baskin
Houston, TX
Some pain does occur, but it can be easily and well controlled with medication, and is usually short lived. Neck stiffness and soreness can be expected for about four to six weeks after surgery.
Dr. Rick Sasso
Indianapolis, IN
If you have your own bone harvested, if you use autograft bone, the pain will be in the bone-graft donor-site region. Most of the time the incision in the front of the neck is not very painful, and that's why this can be done on an outpatient basis. It's not usually a painful incision, although there may be some discomfort and there may be some soreness when you swallow, mainly from the anesthetic tube and also moving the swallowing tube over a little bit while we do the operation. But that usually is very short term, usually by the next day that goes away.
Dr. Jeffrey C. Wang
Los Angeles, CA
There will be a small amount of incisional pain which will resolve as the healing progresses. Patients are often placed into a cervical collar after surgery for a short period of time which will lessen the amount of postoperative pain.
Dr. B. Theo Mellion
Carbondale, IL
Most people do not have significant pain after an anterior operation other than a little pain in the incision. More commonly people have a little bit of a sore throat and occasionally a little pain when swallowing which can improve rather rapidly. Sometimes we see a little discomfort in the back of the neck but overall the pain is minimal and improves within a day or two but the amount of discomfort that most people have after this surgery is really minimal.
Dr. W. Christopher Urban
Glen Burnie, MD
Historically, most of the pain following cervical surgery was related to pain from the bone graft donor site. Today, many surgeons prefer to use allograft bone to make this a less painful procedure. Anterior cervical surgery is less painful than posterior cervical procedures because the latter is a muscle splitting approach. There is usually some mild to moderate incision pain that is well controlled with pain medications. Most patients are comfortable enough to go home the day after surgery.
Dr. Paul Saiz
Mesa, AZ
There is always pain after a surgery. Any long term pain is most likely coming from the other levels of the spine, which still have arthritic change. What must be remembered is that when a fusion is performed it is removing the pain from that one level, all other levels which are causing pain are still present.
Dr. Sean Salehi
Chicago, IL
The incisional pain is minimized by going through the front of the spine. The use of narcotics significantly controls post-operative pain.
Dr. Kambiz Hannani
Los Angeles, CA
The first few days after surgery tend to be painful, but pain medication can help significantly.
Dr. Brian Subach
Atlanta, GA
Most people state that anterior (front) cervical surgery is minimally painful and associated with few side effects. Posterior (back) cervical surgery can be slightly more painful.
Dr. Daniel Resnick
Madison, WI
You will certainly have incisional pain, low period of daze, or even weakness if a hip graft has been harvested. Hopefully the pain in the arm will resolve almost immediately following surgery. The neck pain is more problematic and may not disappear until the fusion has healed which could take up to several months.
Dr. Robert S. Pashman
Los Angeles, CA
Most patients have minimal pain following an anterior (front) fusion surgery. The first few days following surgery are the most uncomfortable and patients often experience a sore throat. The pain is generally tolerable, and usually easily managed with pain medication.
Dr. Sebastian Lattuga
Rockville Centre, NY
Following any surgical procedure, there is some pain or discomfort. Specific to this procedure, patients may have some neck pain, sore throat, and soreness at the incision site.
Dr. Allan Levi
Miami, FL
Most patients have some pain after anterior cervical surgery. However, the pain tends to be short-lived and easily controlled with analgesics.
Dr. Mark R. McLaughlin
Princeton, NJ
Pain from upper neck fusions is generally minimal and can be managed with oral medications.
Dr. Randy Davis
Glen Burnie, MD
All patients have pain after any surgery. The use of a muscle splitting approach such as an operation in the front of the neck I believe significantly decreases the pain of surgery. The use of allograft bone rather than the patient's own hip bone can also decrease the pain after surgery. A variety of effective techniques such as patient controlled anesthesia are available now that were not available five years ago. Many patients now with anterior fusion of the neck can go home the next day.
Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein
New York, NY
Most people do not have significant pain after a anterior operation other than a little pain in the incision. More commonly people could have a little bit of a sore throat. Occasionally people have little pain when swallowing which can improve rather rapidly and sometimes we see a little discomfort in the back of the neck. In most cases the pain is minimal and improves within a day or two and the amount of discomfort that people have after this surgery is really minimal.
Dr. Joseph Alexander
Winston-Salem, NC
Depending on the surgical technique, there will be more or less discomfort following surgery. Surgery from the front of the neck usually involves relatively little discomfort. Most patients do have some pain between their shoulder blades. There is often also a small patch of numbness where the tiny cervical skin nerves are cut. On the other hand, if the cervical surgery is done through the back of the neck, there is more temporary irritation of the muscles and more initial discomfort, which usually moderates after a few days or weeks.
Dr. Dennis G. Crandall
Mesa, AZ
Pain relief is related to the severity of the problem, the occurrence of complications, and a host of other factors. In our experience, with current techniques, by far the majority of patients are much better after surgery than they were before and would do it all again.
Dr. Mark Testaiuti
Haddonfield, NJ
Not as much as you would think. Anterior discectomy and fusion may cause some soreness or swelling for a few days. Some pain near the shoulders and base of neck is also common. Usually the hip graft site is the most painful and can keep a person in the hospital for one or two days.
Dr. Kevin Yoo
Escondido, CA
You will have some soreness immediately after surgery. To help you deal with post-operative pain, pumps that deliver pain medication directly to the operative site are now available. Once the post-operative pain wears off, which usually take one to two weeks, most people experience very little pain.
Dr. Moe R. Lim
Chapel Hill, NC
There will be some pain related to the incision from the surgery. You will be given pain medication after surgery and the pain should resolve slowly over time as the tissues heal.

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