Recovery and Life After Cervical Disc Replacement Surgery

Do you have pain in your neck that radiates out to your limbs? Have you already explored more conservative treatment plans like steroid injections and physical therapy for your chronic neck pain, but still have not found relief? If the answer is yes, and especially if you find that your symptoms are worsening, it may be time to consider cervical disc replacement surgery. 

What makes cervical disc replacement worth it? Dr. Cuellar believes in restoring strength and movement to the spine and that all patients should feel hopeful in regaining a pain-free life. There are several benefits to having a cervical disc replacement – pain relief, flexibility and restoration of function in the spine – but mostly, this surgery offers patients a return to normal activities and life without daily pain. 

Every surgery is accompanied by a recovery period that relies on rest and physical therapy, in order to restore our bodies, but at Cuellar Spine, we take that journey with you. Our staff is committed to providing our patients with the support you need to get stronger, better and faster. Although our minimally invasive surgery options mean patients recover more quickly than traditional approaches, the first couple of weeks post-surgery will require a helping hand around the house to manage medications, food preparation and other chores. Although our goal is to have patients mobile as fast as possible, being able to do so safely – under an initial set of lift and movement restrictions – are key to healing and taking a new step into your pain-free future. 


What to Expect After Cervical Disc Replacement

Recovery from cervical disc replacement surgery is different for every patient – some patients experience a spike in pain or energy levels after a week while for others it may ebb and flow. This fluctuation is a very common experience for patients during the first few weeks after surgery. In the short term, a patient’s activities will be temporarily limited, but as they move into the longer term (likely at the 4-6 week mark, post-surgery), most patients are advised to begin participating in physical therapy programs and wean off of pain management medications. The majority of patients see significant improvement within the first few weeks to months after surgery. 

Patient recovery times vary after a cervical disc replacement surgery – some patients feel ready to return to work very quickly, while the healing process for others may take a bit longer. However, one can expect that during the short term, your doctor will expect for you to relax, limit your activities, and take short frequent walks, in order to avoid blood clots and to aid in the digestion process. Patients are also prescribed pain management medications, such as opioids during short term recovery. As your recovery moves into the longer-term phase, most patients are instructed to shift to acetaminophen for pain management relief and to begin participating in a physical therapy program. Your doctor will assess your progress at the 2-week post-surgery mark and with the help of X-rays and other imaging, will be able to track your progress and make recommendations on what’s right for you and your recovery.    

Recovery Period: Post-Operative Care and Healing

Hospital Stay and Immediate Recovery

As a minimally invasive procedure, a majority of cervical disc replacement procedures are performed in an outpatient setting, with no hospital stay required. If a hospitals stay is required, it is generally a 1 night stay at your doctor’s discretion. In general, most patients are able to be cleared from the hospital when they are able to handle stairs without assistance, eat solid foods and have a bowel movement. 

Pain Management Strategies

Although the initial days following surgery will likely require pain management through medications, the weeks that follow should result in less pain for the patient. If you are, however, experiencing pain that is not helped by medication, you should reach out to your doctor as it could point to an underlying issue that requires immediate attention. 

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation

Physical therapy strengthens your muscles and reduces strain on your joints. It also engages the muscles in the areas surrounding the surgical site, which means your body is better able to stay strong and reduce the risk of injury as you recover. 

Nutrition and Lifestyle During Recovery

The recovery process can be a slow one but the best thing you can do for your body is to treat it right with a healthy and balanced diet. Ask your doctor about your movement and lifting restrictions and what sort of activities make sense for you to participate in after surgery. Although there may be some changes in lifestyle that you have to make after your surgery, the most important thing you can do is protect your spinal health and avoid future injury to the spine. 


Lifestyle After Cervical Disc Replacement

Although every patient’s journey through recovery looks different, you can look forward to entering a phase of life that is pain-free. You will soon have more flexibility and strength in your spine and be able to enjoy everyday movements more, with each day that passes. Cervical disc replacement recovery may take a series of weeks to complete, but the end result is truly worth it. 

When Can You Resume Daily Activities?

Dr. Jason M. Cuéllar, M.D., understands what it means to suffer from chronic neck pain and as someone who was once a patient himself, he dedicated years of study to finding life-long solutions for patients in need of long-term relief. Dr. Cuéllar has helped thousands of patients find the best treatment plan for their spinal conditions, and he believes that there is hope for every patient to find relief, which makes him stand out from the rest. 

Patients come to Cuéllar Spine because they need real solutions to chronic and debilitating pain and Dr. Jason M. Cuéllar offers talent and expertise as one of the most sought-after spine surgeons in the nation. Although there are some immediate, temporary physical limitations after cervical disc replacement surgery, the day-to-day experience of normal activities can be achieved through cervical disc replacement surgery, without constant pain. The stronger our patients become post-surgery, through physical therapy and eventually exercise, the better and more confident they feel about gaining their lives back. We want all of our patients to be able to adapt to post-surgery life and move forward, toward freedom from constant pain through stronger and healthier spines. 

Daily Living

There are a few specific considerations to keep in mind while in recovery from spinal surgery: 

  • You will need a family member or a friend to help you throughout the day, for the first full week of recovery
  • You will need to find a way to support your back as you sleep, in a way that does not cause neck pain
  • It is crucial to prioritize the time you dedicate to physical therapy exercises, as it is integral to your healing and regaining your strength
  • Avoid lifting, twisting, pulling, pushing 
  • Quit smoking – this impedes the healing process 


Avoid driving for at least 2 full weeks following surgery. There are many minor movements we make while we are driving that could cause injury, as well as sudden stops or damaged street or roadways that jerk the spine even while driving at slow speeds. You should limit time in the car as a passenger to very short distances. 

Movement & Heavy Lifting

Lifting anything over 10lbs is not recommended for patients recovering from spinal surgery, nor is lifting items over the head. Be patient: your body needs time to heal 

Resuming Work and Exercise

Dr. Jason M. Cuéllar leads with compassion and seeks out all non-invasive options for his patients first. Dr. Cuéllar has hope for all patients to find treatments that lead them to long-term relief to chronic pain. 

Although some patients are able to return to work after cervical disc replacement within a matter of weeks, others are able to resume normal activities within a few months. Part of the recovery process involves listening to our bodies. Patients who commit to their post-surgery exercise and physical therapy are far more likely to see positive and rapid results. 

Returning to Work

Typically, patients are able to return to work within a few weeks.

Exercise, Sports and Physical Therapy

Most patients should avoid high-impact exercise for life post-surgery, but your doctor can recommend a timeline for the types of physical activities that you may be able to participate in again post-surgery. 


Long-Term Success and Follow-Up Care

One of the reasons so many patients trust Dr. Cuéllar with their spines is because he and his team are supportive from the moment a patient enters the office to the moment they complete all of their follow-up care after surgery. Dr. Cuéllar believes in a robust assessment of each patient and in finding the best treatment option for every patient’s lifestyle and unique condition. Cervical disc replacement offers long-term results for chronic pain sufferers and at Cuéllar Spine we want our patients to experience quality care that lasts a lifetime. 

What is the success rate of cervical disc replacement? 

Cervical disc replacement surgery has a very high success rate and more than 90% of patients are satisfied with their results, which include: improved pain management, preservation of spinal motion, preventing adjacent disc degeneration and faster recovery and rehabilitation. 

What Lifestyle Changes Can Enhance the Success of Disc Replacement?

There are some lifestyle changes that can enhance a patients ability to heal and recover after surgery, such as: avoiding smoking, avoiding drinking excess alcohol, using lumbar support and ergonomic chairs/desk spaces, avoiding sitting for long periods of time, achieving a healthy weight. 

Long Term Outlook

Cervical disc replacement surgery is intended to provide patients with long-term relief. The long-term outlook for patients is one that provides increased mobility, flexibility, and strength to patients over the full course of their lifetime. Your recovery progress is important – schedule regular check-up appointments with your doctor to help monitor your progress, and keep you moving in the right direction. 

Will there be any pain long-term after surgery?

Although there will be some immediate pain in the short term post-surgery, there should be long-term pain relief in the spine from a cervical disc replacement. 

What can’t I do after cervical disc replacement? 

Patients will not be able to participate in high impact sports or activities, and for some, the ability to fully look over their shoulders can become somewhat limited. Restrictions post-surgery vary by patient, and depend on the surgical procedure performed, but for some patients a neck collar may be put in place due to a traumatic injury. These limitations are only temporary, and patients will be able to participate in most activities normally after they have made a full recovery.

How Long Does It Take to Fully Recover After Cervical Disc Replacement?

A full recovery from cervical disc replacement surgery can vary from patient to patient, depending on many factors including lifestyle, genetics, and overall health. On average, a full recovery can be made in 6 to 12 weeks.

A cervical disc replacement surgery requires the expertise of a talented and experienced surgeon – you don’t want to trust the health and integrity of your spine to just anyone. Dr. Jason M. Cuèllar, M.D., has performed countless spine surgeries, at some of the most prestigious and state-of-the-art facilities in the nation. He is dedicated to staying abreast of the newest developments in the field and specializes in spinal deformities and traumas. Dr. Cuéllar’s patients’ experiences speak to his ability to transform someone’s life with this life-changing treatment. 

Living life without chronic pain is within your grasp and Dr. Jason M. Cuéllar, M.D. has hope for every patient to attain a pain-free future. At Cuéllar Spine we are not only committed to discovering the best treatment option for your spinal condition, we are here to walk with you throughout the recovery process post-surgery as well. Our team will help you optimize your recovery progress, motivate you, and keep you on track for fast healing. Let’s make life after cervical disc replacement not only possible but your first step into a better, pain-free future. Call us today to book your consultation with our committed team at Cuéllar Spine. 

More News & Insights from Cuéllar Spine


Schedule a Consultation

    Dr. Cuéllar accepts most major insurance plans, but is an out of network provider. Please contact our team for more information.