Skip to main content

Spinal fusion relieves neck pain while retaining stability

A minimally invasive spinal fusion relieved Jean McCoy of her neck pain and returned her to one of her passions — painting with acrylics.

Seven years ago, Jean McCoy injured her neck while lifting a printer.

"It seemed fine, but it came back to haunt me," said Ms. McCoy, who is a prospect research and database manager at Peconic Bay Medical Center. "I had an MRI on my neck, and it looked like I'd been in a car accident."

Ms. McCoy, with support from her daughter Kelly and son Danny, tried conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, acupuncture and epidurals, but nothing eased her pain. It even got in the way of a favorite hobby, painting with acrylics.

After years without relief, Ms. McCoy's primary care doctor referred her to Robert Galler, DO, director of neurosurgery at Peconic Bay Medical Center and director of neurosurgical spine for the eastern region of Northwell Health.

Surgery removes disks and fuses spine

Dr. Galler's solution involved removing the troublesome disks in Ms. McCoy's neck through a minimally invasive surgery and then fusing her spine to decrease pain and retain stability.

"The procedure was done in two hours, and didn't require any bracing after surgery - no collar was used, and she had freedom of movement," Dr. Galler said. "She went home the next morning."

Ms. McCoy returned to work just more than two weeks after her surgery and continues to increase her physical activity. She is doing well, only having occasional neck discomfort and has even been able to return, once again, to her paints and easel.

"Don't wait like me," said Ms. McCoy. "I waited, saying it would go away. It didn't. See your doctor about any neck or back issues while you're young."

Managing neck and back pain

Pain doesn't have to be severe to disrupt your everyday life. Many cases of neck and back pain occur due to strain from overuse or injury, and can ease with conservative treatment.

Try these at-home remedies:

  • Limited bed rest, with intermittent action to prevent muscles from becoming stiff
  • Hot and cold therapy - use either ice packs or cold compresses right after you notice pain, and then heat therapy, such as heating pads or warm baths if the pain does not dissipate in a couple of days
  • Massage to ease any stiff or tense muscles

"Keep your activity level appropriate in order to avoid injury," Dr. Galler said. "If you're 55 years old, you shouldn't be exerting yourself with heavy weights or moving objects that place unnecessary strain on your spine."

For more information about Peconic Bay Medical Center's neurosurgical services: