Many people associate herniated spinal discs with lower back pain. The reality is that a disc herniation can happen anywhere along the spine, including your neck. If you are suffering from a herniated cervical disc, you’re already aware of the pain and discomfort these injuries can cause. There are options available to help address the symptoms and get you back to your busy lifestyle.
About Cervical Disc Herniation
Cervical discs are round, flat structures that are made up of a rubbery outer layer and a gel-like inner layer. These discs act as cushions between the vertebrae of your spine in the neck region and permit motion. A cervical disc may rupture if it is damaged. The rupture is frequently due to a crack in the outer casing that allows the disc matter to leak out.
Cervical disc herniation may be referred to as a bulging disc or prolapsed disc. While these conditions are similar, bulging and prolapsed discs may lead to disc herniation. This occurs when the outer layer of the disc cracks and the disc matter projects into the nerve channel.
Common Symptoms of Cervical Disc Herniation
Herniated disc usually only require if they are significant enough to compress the spinal cord or the nerve roots that come of the spinal cord en route to the arms.
Pain in your neck, shoulder, arm, hand or shoulder blade is the most common of the symptoms you might experience with a herniated disc. Sometimes, this pain is associated with weakness or numbness/tingling. These symptoms typically reflect compression of a cervical nerve root or “pinched nerve” in the neck. If the herniation is severe enough, however, the spinal cord can be affected. This could make your hands or your legs feel numb, tingly or weak. It could also affect your balance. In extreme cases, it can also lead to difficulty controlling their bowel and bladder.
Diagnosis of Cervical Disc Herniation
Much of the time, a doctor can diagnose cervical disc herniation through a description of the pain you’re experiencing and a physical exam. In cases where it’s undetermined if the pain is due to a herniated disc, or if no improvement is seen after a course of rest and physical therapy, the physician may refer you for an imaging study that can include x-rays, an MRI or a CT scan.
Treatment Options for Cervical Disc Herniation
If you’re diagnosed with a cervical disc herniation, you have many treatment options available. Typically, a conservative approach is the first course of action. This can include pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, modification of your normal activities, special exercises and rest. If the pain doesn’t subside after a recommended period of time, the doctor may perform surgery such as a partial or full discectomy. If the spinal cord is affected, surgery is usually recommended right away because the greater risk of permanent neurological problems.