Cervical disc herniation is a spine condition that most commonly affects people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. A herniated disc can occur in up to 20 cases per 1000 adults every year.
Cervical discs provide cushioning for the cervical vertebrae, which support the neck, head, and upper body. When a disc is herniated, it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in these areas. Rest, over-the-counter pain medication, and physical therapy are common treatments for cervical disc herniation, but sometimes surgery may be required.
To learn more about cervical disc herniation, as well as diagnosis and treatment options, call Colorado Springs Neurological Associates at 719-473-3272. You can also fill out an online form to schedule an appointment. Our team of healthcare providers is dedicated to working with every patient to develop a customized, comprehensive treatment plan.
What Is Cervical Disc Herniation?
Cervical disc herniation is a spine disorder that can cause neck pain, arm pain, or upper back pain. A “herniated disc” may also be called a “ruptured disc” or “slipped disc.” To understand how cervical disc herniation occurs, it helps to understand where cervical discs are and how the spine is constructed.
The bones in your spine are called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae are discs, spongy cushions that absorb shock and regular movement. When a disc is herniated, the tough fibrous outer ring of a disc is torn and the softer inner material protrudes.
The cervical vertebrae make up the top seven vertebrae in your spine. This area contains nerves that connect to your upper body, arms, and hands. When a cervical disk is herniated, it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in these areas.
Signs and symptoms of cervical disc herniation
Cervical disc herniations most commonly occur between C5-C6 and C6-C7 vertebrae, which support much of the weight from both the neck and the head. The following symptoms may point to cervical disc herniation:
- Vague neck, shoulder, arm, or upper body pain
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased movement, rotation, or reflexes
- Numbness, tingling, prickling, chilling, or burning sensations
- Sharp, shooting pain or burning pain when coughing, sneezing, or changing positions
The parts of the body in which you notice symptoms will depend on which vertebrae are affected. A herniated cervical disc can also occur without any noticeable symptoms presenting at all.
Age is the most common cause of disc herniation. Gradual wear and tear that comes with age can cause discs to degenerate, lose flexibility, and be more prone to tearing or rupturing.
Trauma and improper movement can also cause herniated discs. Physically demanding jobs, genetic predisposition, and excess body weight can also increase the risk of a herniated disc.
Diagnosing Cervical Disc Herniation
If you experience pain, numbing sensations, weakness, or tingling in the neck, arm, or upper body, you should seek medical attention. A doctor will perform a physical exam to diagnose a possible cervical disc herniation.
During a physical exam, your doctor will examine your spine with you standing and laying down. They’ll use touch and pressure to test any loss of sensation, weakness, or abnormal reflexes. Your doctor will also note your spinal curvature and talk to you about your pain.
An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan may be required to view the soft tissue and anatomy around your spine. A herniated disc can easily be spotted using one of these imaging techniques. Your doctor will present treatment options to you after diagnosis.
Herniated Disc Treatment Options at CSNA
In many cases, problems from a herniated cervical disc will start to improve on their own within weeks. Rest and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can help you feel better. Sometimes, physical therapy that includes stretching, massage, or ice and heat may be prescribed for pain relief.
Cervical disc herniations that don’t respond to these treatments, or lead to loss or altered function, may require herniated disc surgery. A discectomy, bone graft, or bone removal may relieve pressure on affected nerves or the spinal cord to relieve pain.
At Colorado Springs Neurological Associates, we offer a wide variety of treatment options and procedures to our patients. Treatment decisions are always made on a case-by-case basis, and in conjunction with every patient to ensure they have a voice in the decision-making process.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a cervical disc herniation in Southern Colorado, let CSNA guide an effective treatment plan. Please call our Colorado Springs office at 719-473-3272 or contact a representative online to schedule an appointment.