Cervical Disc Herniation – What are the Causes, what are the Symptoms, and How is it Treated?
Cervical discs provide cushion-like support for the vertebrae located in the upper back and neck region. When these discs are healthy, they help keep the spine flexible and absorb shock. However, if they become damaged, the gelatinous material of the inner disc may rupture or protrude from the outer disc wall, and result in a condition known as cervical disc herniation. While disc herniation can happen anywhere along the spine, it is most common in the neck and lower back area.
The Causes of Cervical Disc Herniation
Typically, a herniated disc is the result of wear and tear over time, also known as disc degeneration. While it sounds like a concerning condition, it is not uncommon to experience this health problem as you get older. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine the exact cause of a cervical disc herniation but some reasons may include:
- Advanced age has an effect on discs since they are more prone to drying out, becoming less flexible and increasing the likelihood of a rupture or herniation when movements are made.
- Injuries to the spine can cause tiny cracks to form in the outer layer of the disc where inner disc fluid can seep out.
- Excessive stress put on the disc due to heavy lifting or other sudden and strenuous motions.
- Genetics can also play a role in patients having an increased risk of a cervical disc herniation, as well as lifestyle choices such as smoking.
The Symptoms of Cervical Disc Herniation
While it can sometimes cause no symptoms at all, a cervical disc herniation is one of the leading causes of neck pain. Additionally, if the inner disc material is pressing on a nerve root, some other noticeable symptoms may include:
- Neck, upper back, shoulder or arm pain
- Weakness, burning, tingling or numbness in your arms or hands
- Chronic headaches
- Difficulty using your hands or moving your arms and neck
- Weakness in the legs that results in trouble walking
Treatment Options for Cervical Disc Herniation
Most cases of cervical disc herniation can be managed through non-surgical remedies. However, if you are experiencing a severe case of this condition, more drastic measures such as surgery may be required. Before opting for surgery, the following treatment options may be considered to reduce pain and promote healing:
- Take muscle relaxants, over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or medication prescribed by your healthcare provider to help reduce the severity of symptoms.
- Apply an ice or heat pack to the affected area.
- Perform gentle exercises with the help of a physical therapist who can teach you how to properly stretch and strengthen your muscles.
- Rest or modify your activities to avoid painful movements.
- A steroid injection may be recommended for more serious cases. The steroid is administered in the epidural space between your vertebrae and spinal cord to reduce pain and swelling.
- If other treatments don’t work, surgery may be needed. Decompression surgery can be performed to relieve the pressure on your nerves or the damaged disc may also be removed completely.
A cervical disc herniation that is left untreated may begin to feel worse if left untreated. To prevent your condition from progressing, contact Dr. Lewis at Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic. With decades of experience specializing in the diagnostics and treatment of various spinal disorders, we are here to help you live a life that is free of pain.
Contact us today to learn more about cervical disc herniation or to schedule a consultation with one of our specialists. We’ll find a solution that works for you! Call us at (601) 366-1011.