Herniated Neck Disc

Herniated neck disc, or herniated cervical disc, is the second most common location for a disc disorder. Our neck is an anatomical structure that is placed on a considerable amount of stress since it can do a wide range of movement while bearing all the weight of the head.

Common Causes of Herniated Neck Discherniated neck disc

Trauma or any kind of injury due to accidents like slip or falls is a common cause of a herniated neck disc. Another cause is the deterioration of the spinal column over time. As the soft tissues in the cervical column wears off, it will bulge, causing a herniated disc. Eating an unhealthy diet and living an unhealthy lifestyle with habits like smoking and drinking can make you prone to developing disc disorders as well.

Resulting Pain

A herniated neck disc can be quite painful. The pain is described from dull to sharp. The pain is localized at the base of the neck and sometimes radiates out to the sides.

There are cases where you can experience referred pain as a result of the herniated neck disc. The pain can be felt in the arms, shoulders and hands. Usually the pain is worse in the referred site as compared to the exact location of the disc protrusion. You may feel pain in the neck but you will also feel a sharp pain in your arms or wrists. This is an example of a referred pain.

Why is there pain? As the soft tissues of the cervical spine degenerates, it compresses or squeezes on the nerves causing pressure that could lead to pain.

In addition to pain, a herniated cervical disc can cause weakness and numbness of the arms and hands. You will eventually notice that you are losing control of your upper extremities. This is because the pressure on the nerves limits the flow of blood in other areas where muscles can turn weak and later on may lose their function. If you experience weakness, visit your doctor right away.

Diagnosis of a Herniated Neck Disc

A herniated disc in the neck is diagnosed through physical examination and by answering the questions asked by your doctor regarding your symptoms.

Next step is through imaging tests like MRI and CT scans that could help in identifying the presence of a herniated disc. X-ray is also obtained to provide a visualization of the spinal column.

A myelogram is a procedure where a dye is injected into the spine to see what nerves are compressed. Lastly, electromyography and nerve conduction study is done to determine what nerves are affected.

Treatments for Herniated Neck Disc

Conservative treatment is the first relief measure done by using pain medications and muscle relaxants to prevent spasms. Corticosteroids may also be given orally or injected into the affected region to reduce swelling or inflammation.

Another treatment for a herniated disc in the neck is physical therapy. Physical therapy increases muscle strength and stability. But there are cases where surgery is needed.  The objective of surgical procedures is to create room for the spinal cord, removing the bone and replacing it with a new one or by fusing a vertebra together.