Cervical degenerative disc disease is a condition where discs affecting neck movement become worn over time, often resulting in neck pain and stiffness. In addition to natural wear and tear, cervical degenerative disc disease can also be caused from accidents or falls.
As with back pain, it’s not unusual for neck pain to go away with non-surgical spine treatments such as a little rest or some mild pain relievers. However, there are certain symptoms to look out for that may indicate degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine include:
- Low-grade neck pain (not necessarily acute or sharp pain, but steady or persistent pain that often returns with normal neck movements)
- Numbness, tingling or weakness in the neck (may extend to the arms and shoulders due to pinched or irritated nerves affecting the cervical area)
- A stiff or inflexible neck
Diagnosing Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease
Diagnosing cervical degenerative disc disease usually starts with a physical exam where the patient is asked to perform certain movements to gauge the level of pain. An exam will also rule out other possible causes such as arthritis. An MRI, x-ray or CT scan is often necessary to confirm a diagnosis and determine an appropriate treatment, which may include:
- Medications to treat pain and inflammation
- Application of heat or cold
- Exercises (chin-to-chin stretches, side-to-side swivels)
- Chiropractic adjustments (to increase disc space)*
- Surgery (usually fusion surgery to stop motion in the affected area)
*Periodic adjustments are often necessary since results aren’t permanent.
If not treated, cervical degenerative disc disease may contribute to cervical stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck, or result in a disc herniation, when the inner core of the disc leaks to the outside portion of the disc. As a general rule, any neck pain that doesn’t go away within a few days, or becomes progressively more severe, should be evaluated by a doctor.
To find out your options for treating cervical degenerative disc disease, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration and schedule an in-person consultation. Dr. Bae is a leader in minimally invasive surgery, as well as non-fusion technologies that promote range of motion for patients and decrease the healing time when compared to more traditional procedures. Call 310-828-7757 for more information.