Symptoms of a Herniated Cervical Disc

Symptoms of a Herniated Neck DiscSymptoms of a herniated cervical disc in the neck, such as neck pain, are unfortunately, a common sign of discomfort for a number of adults.  The spinal cord is composed of diverse structures like bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. Each one of these structures contains nerve endings that can sense and communicate pain. So, a herniated cervical disc can really hurt!


There are two common reasons for a herniated disc; these are muscle disproportion and trauma. Muscle disproportion or imbalances cause abnormal pressure on the spinal disc and this pressure causes it to wear out. The worn out soft tissues will then come in contact with the nerves causing pain.

Trauma, another cause of herniated disc, may not always happen in just a blink of an eye. When a trauma happens you can be asymptomatic but it usually takes time for the nerves to be placed in a position to cause pain.


No, surprisingly, not all people affected with this condition experiences any symptoms. However, if the herniated disc bears down on the spinal nerves, symptoms would start such as pain, loss of sensation, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.

The extent and seriousness of these symptoms depends on the pressure that the herniated disc places on the spinal nerves. Herniated disc symptoms may be worse when you laugh, cough, urinate or strain while defecating.

One of the most common herniated disc symptoms is neck pain. The pain in the neck could radiate down into the shoulders, arms and travel down to the fingers. Your arms may start to weaken and you will have trouble moving your fingers.


Herniated disc symptoms like intense pain felt from the buttocks and down to the legs may happen if the herniated disc is in the lower back. One distinctive sign of a herniated disc in the lower back is pain felt below the knee. With this, you will feel weakness in the legs and you cannot lift your foot easily off the ground. Loss of bowel and bladder control is an urgent medical situation and immediate medical attention is needed.

Pain caused by a herniated disc is described as sharp and cutting. There are instances where you can say exactly where the pain is but it commonly radiates down the leg. The pain gets worse as it goes down the leg and its onset can be sudden.

A physical examination and medical history are necessary for a diagnosis. Your health care provider may want to find out what nerves are affected, and imaging tests are performed.


  • X-rays. Plain x-rays cannot detect a herniated disc but it can help to rule out causes of pain like tumor, broken bone or spinal mis-alignment.
  • CT or Computerized Tomography Scan. A CT scan takes a clear picture of the area from different angles then integrates it to produce a cross-sectional image of the spinal cord and its structures.
  • MRI is also a test used to verify the location of the herniated disc and to see what nerves are affected. Pictures of the structures are obtained through magnetic field and radio waves.
  • Myelogram, a procedure where a dye is injected to the spinal fluid then x-rays are taken, is used to know the amount of pressure on the spinal cord and to determine the area of the herniated disc.

If you start to experience herniated cervical disc symptoms, go to your health care provider right away. Early detection of this condition can prevent it from getting worse.