The cervical disc herniation can often cause pain by compressing the nerves in your neck.
The most common reason for neck and upper body pain is cervical disc herniation. The pain may be dull or sharp in the neck between the shoulder blades and radiate downward to the arms, hands, and fingers. Patients may experience numbness or tingling, as well as a feeling of numbness. Pain can be aggravated by certain movements and positions.
A cervical herniated disc can lead to spinal cord compression in some patients. This happens when disc material pushes against the spinal cord. This condition is more severe and requires a more aggressive treatment. The symptoms of spinal cord compression include a stumbling gait and difficulty with fine motor skills in arms and hands, as well as tingling or “shock-like” sensations down the torso and into the legs.
Several factors that increase the likelihood of disc herniation
- Poor disc health is a result of poor lifestyle choices like smoking, inactivity, and inadequate nutrition.
- As we age, biochemical changes naturally cause intervertebral discs to dry out. This affects disc strength and resilience.
- Bad posture and poor body mechanics can put additional strain on the cervical spine.
These factors are combined with injuries, improper lifting, and twisting and you can see why discs may herniate. A disc herniation can occur suddenly, or slowly over several weeks or months.
The Stages of a Cervical Herniated disc
4 stages of a cervical herniated disc
- Disc Degeneration: As a result of chemical changes that occur with age, intervertebral discs begin to weaken but not to the point where they become herniated. This is part of the aging process mentioned above. It can cause the disc’s ability to absorb shock from your movements to dry out. This stage can also cause the disc to become thinner.
- Prolapse: This is when the disc’s shape or position changes due to slight impingement into the spinal canal. This stage is also known as a protruding or bulging disc.
- Extrusion: The gel-like Nucleus Pulposus (inner portion of intervertebral disc) breaks through the tire-like wall, annulus Fibrosus, but stays within the disc.
- Sequestration: Also known as Sequestered Disc, the nucleus pulposus is able to break through the annulus fibrosus and can travel outside of the intervertebral disc and into the spinal canal.
A Accurate Diagnosis
Not every herniated disc causes symptoms. Sometimes, a herniated or bulging disc is discovered after an x-ray. Often, it is the symptoms that cause patients to consult their doctor. A thorough examination of the patient, including their medical history, neurological exam, and imaging studies (e.g. x-ray, CT scan) are necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.
Other Treatment Options
Some patients do not require neck surgery. Most patients find that non-surgical treatments are effective in relieving pain and symptoms within four to six weeks. Keep positive about your treatment plan, and remember that only 5% of back problems can be treated with surgery.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and muscle relaxants to ease spasms may be included in the medication.
- Physical therapy can include gentle massage, cold and heat treatments, and stretching.
If symptoms and pain persist despite other treatments, cervical spine surgery may be recommended. Surgery may be required if the herniated disc is compressing the spinal cord (ie. myelopathy).
Spine surgery serves the purpose of decompressing nerves that are compressed by a herniated disc. A discectomy is the most common procedure. This involves the complete or partial removal of the disc. An anterior discectomy is a procedure that involves removing the damaged disc from the front of your neck.
Sometimes, it’s necessary to access the herniated disc from behind by removing some of the lamina. This is a small bony plate that covers the spinal canal. Laminotomy (posterior) is the name of this procedure. Both procedures can often be done minimally invasively and in outpatient spine surgery centers. Some patients may consider cervical artificial disc replacement.
Can a cervical herniated disc be prevented?
Although aging is inevitable, lifestyle changes can be made to prevent cervical disc disease. Good posture and body mechanics are important. Regular exercise is recommended.
How to Remove Cervical Disc Herniates
The cervical spine has 6 intervertebral discs. Each cervical disc is located between two adjacent vertebrae (one below and one above) to cushion the vertebral bodies. They also help distribute the load from the neck and head. There are two basic components to a disc.
- Annulus fibrosus. The outer layer of the disc is made up of concentric collagen fibers. This makes it strong enough to protect its soft inner layer. The spine’s heavy loads are absorbed by the annulus fibrosus.
- Nucleus pulposus. This gel-like interior is made up of loose network fibers that are suspended in mucoprotein gel, and then protected by the annulus fibrosus. Additional cushioning and flexibility are provided by the nucleus pulposus, which provides mobility support.
A herniated disc is when the disc’s outer layer breaks down and some of its nucleus pulposus leaks into the tear. The most painful part of a herniated disc is when the nucleus pulposus (which contains inflammatory proteins) leaks from the disc onto the nerve root. A herniated disc may also leak onto the spinal cord.
Risk factors for a Cervical Herniated disc
As we age, the risk of developing a herniated disc tends to increase. According to some estimates, a cervical herniated disc is more likely to occur between the ages of 30 and 50. While most studies show that men are more likely to develop a cervical herniated disc, a new study shows that women could be at greater risk.
According to estimates, the rate of cervical herniated discs in adults is between 0.5% and 2.2%. Many cases of cervical herniated disc may not be diagnosed and could result in different estimates depending on the population.
A Cervical Herniated disc Is Severe
Rarely, symptoms and signs of a cervical herniated disc may get worse over time rather than stabilizing and eventually resolving itself. A pinched or inflamed cervical nerve root can cause tingling, numbness and/or weakness in the arm. The same applies to a herniated cervical disc.
This can cause problems with coordination, walking, bladder control, and/or coordination. These neurological problems require immediate medical attention in order to avoid them becoming more severe or permanent.