What are the C5 and C6?
Because they support the majority of weight from the neck, head and neck, the C5 and C6 vertebrae are commonly called the stress vertebrae. The C5 and C6 vertebrae have a vertebral head, a vertebral arch and two transverse processes. When they are combined, they produce synovial facet joint pairs that glide together. The joint surfaces of the C5 have articulating cartilages.
C6 vertebrae allow for smooth movement and reduce resistance between facet joint surfaces. The disc is the largest joint in the spine. The disc is the largest joint in the spine. 85% of weight that passes through the C5-6 motion segment, 15% goes through the facet joints. A herniated disc at the c5-6 level of the spine may cause weakness in the biceps and wrist extensor muscle groups, as well as numbness or tingling and pain radiating to the fingertips and thumb. The most common level for cervical disc herniation is c5-6.
A herniated disc c5-c6 can cause nerve damage in the neck, arms, shoulders, hands, head, eyes, ears, and thyroid glands. These symptoms, along with pain in the neck, are common in c5-c6 disc herniations. C5-C6 disc herniation symptoms include numbness and tingling, burning, weakness and problems with vision.
The C5-C6 spine motion segment, located in the lower cervical spine above the C7 vertebra, provides support and flexibility to the neck and head. The C5-C6 motion section is prone to poor posture, disc herniation and radicular pain.
These structures are part of the C5-C6 spinal movement segment:
C5 and C6 vertebrae. Each of these vertebrae consists of a vertebral head, a vertebral arch and 2 transverse processes. They form synovial facet joints that allow for gliding movements. Smooth movements are provided by the smooth joints and friction between the C5 and C6 facet joint surfaces at the back. Ligaments attach the vertebrae at different attachment points to each other.
C5-C6 intervertebral disc. Between the vertebral bodies C5-C6 is a disc made from a gel-like material (nucleus pilosus), and surrounded by thick fibrous rings (annulus fibrosus). This disc acts as a cushion and shock absorber to prevent the vertebrae grinding against each other during neck movements. It also allows for movement in all directions. C6 spinal nerve. Between C5 and C6, the C6 spinal neuron exits the spinal cord via a small bony hole on the right and left sides of the spinal canal, called the intervertebral foramen. The C6 nerve is composed of a sensory and motor root.
The C6 dermatome, an area of skin that is sensitive to sensations via the C6 nerve, is known as the C6 dermatome. This dermatome covers the skin between the thumb and forearm. A C6 myotome refers to a group of muscles that are controlled by the C6 nervous. The wrist extensor muscles allow the wrist to bend backwards; and the biceps, and supinator muscles in the upper arm which bend the elbow and turn the forearm. The spinal canal protects the spinal cord, with the vertebral bodies at the front and the vertebral arches behind. Bony tunnels running up each side of the vertebrae protect the vertebral arteries.
What causes a C5/C6 disc herniation
Trauma or injury, such as an accident at work or a slip and fall, is the most common reason for a herniated disc. This condition can be extremely painful and annoying, regardless of whether it is caused by a car accident, lifting heavy objects, or another injury. This and other back problems can also be caused by genetic factors. You could be at risk if you have family members with spine pain, herniated/bulging discs, or both.
Common Problems at C5 – C6
These injuries and disorders can occur in the C5-C6 motion section:
- Problems with the disc. Problems with the disc. In some cases, the C5-C6 disc can also become displaced by whiplash injuries.6 These disc problems are often a source for C6 radicular pain.
- Spondylosis. Spondylosis is a condition that causes degeneration of the C5-C6 vertebrae as well as the intervertebral disc.
- Fracture. Fracture.
- Congenital stenosis. As an inherited trait, the C5 vertebra is more at risk of spinal canal stenosis than other vertebrae in the cervical spine.7
- Rarely, tumors or infections can affect the C5-C6 vertebrae as well as the spinal segment.
Common Signs and Symptoms of C5-C6 Stemming
Disc and vertebral pain starting at C5-C6 can occur quickly after an injury, or slowly increase over time. A dull ache or sharp pain can be felt in the back of your neck. It is possible that the neck’s range may decrease. With neck movements, there may be crepitus, which is a snap, crackle or pop sound.
The C6 spinal nerve can be compressed or inflamed, which may lead to additional symptoms like:
- The pain can radiate to the arm from the neck, armpit, or upper arm.
- Numbness on the index, thumb, or forearm.
The symptoms may appear on either one or both sides.
A spinal injury at the C5-C6 levels can cause paralysis, pain, weakness, and weakness in the arms or legs. In some cases, there may be breathing difficulties or loss of bladder and bowel control.
For pain that is C5-C6, nonsurgical treatment is often first tried. Surgery may be an option in rare cases.
C5-C6 Treatment Time and Recovery
There are many non-surgical options available for C5-C6 disc herniation. Each option has its pros and cons. Recovery times will vary depending on which course is chosen. These include prescription medication, injections, and physical therapy to achieve total spine wellness.
The surgeon will be able to recommend the best treatment for herniated discs after a diagnosis. A simple adjustment in posture and neck braces can often be enough to alleviate minor symptoms of C5-C6 disc herniation. Patients can also recover fully with manual therapy, which is available in a few days or weeks.
Surgery is the best option for advanced cases that have persistent neck pain over 2 months. There are many surgical options available to treat C5-C6 herniated discs. This is similar to non-surgical treatment. As they evaluate the options, patients are advised to speak with skilled surgeons. The extent of disc damage and the impact on spinal health and well being of the patient should all be considered when deciding on the best procedure.
There are several surgical options available to treat herniated discs at C5-6. These include minimally invasive spinal fusion, endoscopic laser repair and spinal fusion. Anterior cervical discectomy (or fusion), or posterior cervical decompression (or fusion), require painful incisions, plates and metal screws. They also require long recovery times that include months of opioid painkiller usage and extended periods of time off from work. Artificial discs can become dislodged or even fused from the inflammation they cause.
There are many physical exercises that can strengthen the cervical spine and reduce stiffness and pain. These include neck stretches and resistance exercises that loosen the neck muscles. Poor posture is the leading cause of C5-C6 disc herniation. You can prevent problems in the neck or spine by taking measures to improve your work habits and sleeping head position. You might consider purchasing contour pillows and ergonomic chairs that support your neck curve. These small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in your overall spine health.