Spongy discs that contain a gel-like center cushion the seven bones that make up the neck. If this material pushes outward through the fibrous outer shell of the disc, the result is what’s referred to a cervical herniated disc. Though this condition is more common among people between age 30 and 50, discs in the neck can also be affected by sudden trauma or injury.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
The pain from a cervical herniated disc is due to a compressed or “pinched” nerve. Discomfort is often not in the same area where the affected disc is located, referred to as cervical radiculopathy or radiating nerve-based pain. Symptoms stemming from a herniated disc in the neck may include:
- Radiating arm and hand pain
- Neck pain triggered by movement
- Pain around shoulder blades
- Numbness and tingling in one or both arms
- Muscle weakness in biceps and triceps
How Is a Diagnosis Made?
Positive diagnosis of a cervical herniated disc includes a physical exam and consideration of medical history. Noninvasive image scans such as MRIs and CT scans are often performed to provide a closer look at soft tissues and joints in the neck. A specialized X-ray called a myelogram involves the use of a dye injected into the spinal canal to identify the affected nerve. An electromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction study may be done to detect muscle weakness and nerve damage.
What Are the Treatment Options?
Medication in the form of over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatory drugs and physical therapy are the most common treatments for cervical disc herniation. Treatment may also involve:
- Restricting or modifying activities
- Applying heat or ice to the affected area (the neck, not where the pain is felt)
- Epidural steroid injections
Are There Surgical Options?
Spine surgery for a cervical herniated disc is typically a last resort. If you’re not experiencing relief after 4 to 6 weeks or your pain is extreme, surgical options may include an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or artificial disc replacement.
Less than 10 percent of herniated discs occur in the neck. Reduce your risk of neck pain from a disc issue by not smoking or drinking excessively to keep tissues healthy and by taking precautions while playing sports and paying attention to your posture. If your pain has become too severe, speak with a spine surgeon in Los Angeles. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert physicians at The Spine Institute can help you find an effective solution for pain relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to learn more.