Emeka Okafor 'optimistic' he won't need surgery on injured neck

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Emeka Okafor said that the plan is to heal his injured neck with physical therapy rather than undergoing a surgical procedure. His timetable to return to the court is still unclear.

Emeka Okafor will undergo a variety of physical therapy treatments and is confident that he will not need surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, the Wizards' center told reporters on a conference call Wednesday.

"[The doctor] was pretty optimistic that this thing should be solved with physical therapy," he said.

There is still no timetable on when Okafor will return to the court or when he will have to make a decision on surgery if the other treatments don't work. However, when asked about whether there was a chance that he will miss the entire season, Okafor responded that he's "positive" he won't. However, he did acknowledge that he "probably" won't be able to share the court with his teammates "right away."

Okafor said he initially felt discomfort "a couple weeks ago" during a five-on-five scrimmage in New York. After consulting with doctors and specialists, he underwent an MRI in New York, where the herniated disc was discovered. He said he's already begun his rehab, which includes physical therapy, manual manipulations, traction and spinal exercises. He said it "wasn't really necessary at this time" to take any prescribed pain medication.

I'm not in any serious discomfort. It's just going through the proper steps to make sure the healing gets done -Emeka Okafor

"The onset was the worst of [the pain]," Okafor said. "Now, things have been getting better. I'm not in any serious discomfort. It's just going through the proper steps to make sure the healing gets done."

Okafor said his offseason training regiment was the same as always and added that any concerns about keeping in shape as he deals with the issue are "the last thing on my mind." The doctors are allowing him to continue with many physical activities, so long as they don't cause him pain. When I asked him if it was especially frustrating knowing the way he meticulously takes care of his core -- Okafor is among the most diligent stretchers in the league -- he said "yes and no."

"With prevention, you try to reduce the risk," he said. "You don't eliminate the risk. There's always that small chance. It is frustrating that this happened, but it's up to me to bounce back from it."

Okafor added that this is a different issue than the nagging back pain he experienced as a college junior at UConn and that it's not a degenerative condition.

Predictably, Okafor is still confident that the Wizards are a playoff team despite his injury.

"I know we are. Definitely," he said.

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