Herniated discs can occur at any location in your spine. Most times the herniated disc is housed in the lumbar portion of a person’s spine, but some develop at the other end of the spine in the cervical portion of your neck. Today, we take a closer look at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for herniated discs in your cervical spine.
Causes And Symptoms of Cervical Herniated Discs
Before we jump into the causes of herniated discs in your neck, it’s important to understand the pathology behind the injury. Herniated discs occur when the inner core of a disc spills out of the disc and presses on an adjacent nerve root. So what can cause the inner portion of a cervical disc to break through and compress nearby structures? Oftentimes this condition is caused by two actions – physical trauma or overuse. If we’re constantly straining our necks, slowly but surely the outer disc layer could wear down and leave a person susceptible to disc herniation. Similarly, if acute trauma from a car accident or athletics occurs, a cervical disc can herniate.
Symptoms of a cervical disc herniation include:
- Radiating pain down the arms
- Tingling in the arms and fingertips
- Muscle weakness
- Pulsing pain sensations in the neck
- Shoulder, wrist or biceps weakness
- Decrease in grip strength
The specific location of your cervical disc herniation will determine which symptoms you may experience, so tell your doctor about any different symptoms you may be experiencing, as this can help them narrow down where the nerve compression is taking place.
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to diagnose your condition, a neurosurgeon will first listen to your description of symptoms and conduct physical exam to see if there are any areas of pressure. Once the doctor suspects that a cervical disc herniation is the cause of your pain, they’ll order an imaging test. An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan is the best diagnostic tool because it can reveal which nerve roots are being compressed by the disc. A CT scan with myelogram may also be helpful in diagnosing the issue.
Once diagnosed, your neurosurgeon will likely prescribe a course of conservative care. Some of the most common conservative care options include:
- Pain/Anti-inflammatory medications
- Physical therapy
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Activity modification
- Cervical traction
A good number of cervical herniated discs can be successfully managed with conservative options, but if pain persists, a surgical procedure can usually take care of the problem. Spine surgery for cervical herniated discs has about a 95% success rate in terms of providing arm pain relief. Depending on your specific situation, your surgeon may recommend one of a number of potential operations.
The most common surgery for a cervical disc herniation is the Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Spine Fusion (ACDF) procedure. In this operation, the problemed disc is removed through a small one-inch incision in the front of the neck. After the disc is removed, the disc space itself is fused, and a plate may be added for stability.
Other surgical operations include a posterior cervical discectomy or a cervical artificial disc replacement, and you may be placed in a neck brace to aid in recovery. For more information about the operation, or to talk to a doctor about your neck pain, contact us today.