Before learning about cervical disc herniation, it helps to have a quick synopsis of the spinal anatomy. The spinal column represents the body’s main support structure. This contains five regions with the top region being cervical, which pertains to the neck.
In the spine are bones known as vertebrae. Each region has multiple vertebrae. A disc with an inner layer of soft cartilage sits between the vertebrae. A layer of tough cartilage surrounds the soft layer with a gel-like substance. Think of the tough outer cartilage as the donut and the soft interior as the jelly.
What Is a Cervical Disc Herniation?
These discs cushion the bones. A disc herniation is when the jelly starts to leak outside of the donut. Sometimes, the soft cartilage can spill over into the spinal column and compress the nerve.
A cervical disc herniation involves a disc in the neck region. As the disc flattens and the soft layer seeps out, it can cause a shock-like or sharp pain in the neck or arm. The disc can crack or tear, which is why a herniated disc is also called a “slipped” or “ruptured” disc.
Common symptoms associated with a cervical herniated disc include:
- Neck pain
- Radiating or shock-like pain from the neck to the arm
- Numbness or weakness in the arm, hand, or fingers
- Pain that worsens with head movement
- Stiff neck
If you have neck pain with at least one of these symptoms, it will help to contact a disc herniation specialist.
What Causes a Cervical Disc Herniation and How Is It Treated?
The most common cause of cervical disc herniation is gradual wear and tear from aging. The disc becomes dehydrated, which can flatten it and possibly tear. The other cause of a herniated disc in the neck is a traumatic injury. Genetics can play a role as the herniated disc can be a family trait.
To treat the pain from the herniated disc, the doctor may advise resting and abstaining from strenuous activities. At least, take it easy for a few days. Other conservative treatments include ice and heat therapy, over-the-count medicine, cervical traction to gently stretch the neck, massage, and physical therapy. If these to not relieve the pain, the doctor may recommend a steroid injection.
After exhausting conservative spine therapy options, the surgeon may recommend surgery. You may hear about a discectomy, a bone graft, or fusion.
What Can You Expect at a Doctor’s Appointment?
The appointment will start like any other appointment when you see a doctor for the first time. You’ll complete paperwork describing your medical history. The healthcare team will review your medical history and symptoms. It typically follows with a physical exam and possibly one of the following tests:
- MRI: Creates images of the body’s internal structure with radio waves and magnetic fields. It may locate the herniated disc and the affected nerves.
- CT or CT myelogram: Produces cross-sectional images of the spine and surrounding structures. If it’s a CT myelogram, the healthcare provider will inject die into the spinal cord for a better view of the spine.
Need to see a back specialist? Please contact us or call 214-823-2052. You have a choice of two conveniently located offices in Addison and Dallas. We serve patients in Dallas, Frisco, Plano, Garland, Addison, and other cities in the DFW metroplex.