Bruce Springsteen health: Star on ‘nerve-racking’ surgery which left him unable to sing

Bruce Springsteen reveals music helped his mental health

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Although having kept busy since his last time on tour, Springsteen said that he was “looking forward to seeing great and loyal fans next year”, as dates for all U.S. shows will be announced at a later date, with additional UK and European dates on the way. The star has also spoken openly about his health struggles, which has included “agitated depression”, which has continued to affect him well into his 60s. The star has managed to seek some form of relief with the help of therapy and antidepressants. In addition to mental health, Springsteen has faced physical ailments, including “chronic numbness” on his left side that posed a threat to his future in the entertainment business.

As a result of damage to the disks in his neck, the Dancing in the Dark star had to get surgery which dangerously tied off his vocal cords and exposed his throat.

Speaking about the surgery, Springsteen recalled that it was “a little nerve-racking” but went on to say how much of a success the procedure was, although leaving him unable to sing for three months.

He said: “It’s been very successful for me.

“[I have a] finite amount of time in which I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing.”

With the ages of the musicians at the forefront of his tour manager’s mind, Springsteen and members of his backing band the E Street Band have previously been given rest days in between shows in order to “recuperate”.

One member of the band, Steven Van Zandt, commented, “you gotta be in really good shape, baby” before going on to admit that he should be in “better shape” than he is, not helped by his pre-show beer ritual.

Although there was no official confirmation about the cause of his numbness, it is likely that Springsteen experienced what is known professionally as cervical radiculopathy or a “pinched nerve”.

The condition, which causes pain that radiates into the shoulder and arm as well as muscle weakness and numbness, occurs when a nerve in the neck is compressed or irritated where it branches away from the spinal cord.

Initial damage to the area can be caused either by wear and tear which happens naturally as we age, or as a result of conditions like arthritis. In younger people, it is most often caused by a sudden injury that results in a herniated disk.

A herniated disk in itself is a serious condition, and can cause sporadic and sudden symptoms that affect the harms and hands. Ranging from a dull ache in the neck, some individuals experience “electric-like pain” that radiates throughout the body, as well as numbness and weakness.

Typically felt in only one arm, for others who have damaged a particular area could potentially lose control of their lower body, including their bowel and bladder.

As in Springsteen’s case, pain can be chronic, meaning that it can last for months or years. Spine Health, a medical website providing advice, explains that it is common for pain to come and go.

Certain activities can also cause “particularly bad flare-ups”. When neck or arm pain stems from a herniated disc, the symptoms typically resolve completely within four to six months, even though the disc itself may not heal in that time.

For those with a herniated disk, which most likely will lead onto cervical radiculopathy, without treatment they may struggle to perform routine tasks such as gripping or lifting objects, writing, typing or getting dressed.

Other persistent symptoms may include:

  • Diminished ability to respond when skin touches hot or cold
  • Reduced tricep or bicep reflex
  • Reduced coordination.

In most cases, a herniated disk can be successfully managed without the intervention of surgery instead using a combination of over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy to strengthen and stretch the neck, ice or heat packs, and activity modifications to avoid painful movements until the pain has subsided.

However, there are three main reasons for neck surgery. These include:

  • To decompress a nerve root (by removing a damaged disc and/or other problematic structure)
  • To decompress the spinal cord
  • To stabilise the cervical spine.

Common types of surgery include anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and cervical artificial disc replacement (ADR), which are both usually performed on the front of the neck.

The former, ACDF, involves a discectomy, which is the removal of a problematic disc in the cervical spine, whereas the latter, ADR, involves removal of the damaged disc and replacement with an artificial disc, rather than a fusion.

Compared to ACDF, a potential benefit of cervical ADR is that it retains more natural neck mobility. As a somewhat newer method, however, it is practised by fewer surgeons than ACDF and longer-term outcomes are still being studied.

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