C1-C7 disc protrusion is a spinal disorder that affects one or more of the seven intervertebral discs in the cervical spine (neck). Normally, these spongy, thick discs provide cushioning for the bony vertebrae, and also help give the neck its range of motion and flexibility. This mobility, however, combined with the weight burden of supporting the head, makes the discs particularly prone to damage from regular wear and tear or injury.
A disc protrusion refers to a spinal disc that is extending beyond its normal resting place between the vertebrae. While this often can be painless and go unnoticed, it can lead to a number of symptoms if the disc irritates pinches or impinges a nerve root or the spinal cord. Cervical disc protrusion symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the arms and hands, and more. The specific symptoms depend on the location of the disc protrusion. In addition to the seven cervical vertebrae, there are also eight cervical nerves (C1-C8) that exit the spine through the cervical vertebrae. These nerve roots send and receive signals throughout specific segments of the body:
- C1-C2 – neck and skull
- C3 – diaphragm
- C4 – upper arms
- C5-C6 – wrists
- C7 – upper arms
- C8 – hands
If a C1-C7 disc protrusion were to compress one of these nerves, the nerves may signal intense pain. The nerves also may become dysfunctional, leading to symptoms like numbness, a “pins and needles” sensation, and muscle weakness in various degrees of severity. Fortunately, a conservative treatment plan is usually effective in managing disc protrusion symptoms. Surgery is normally reserved for the small percentage of patients who have not responded to physical therapy, medications, epidural steroid injections, and other conservative treatments.
Spine surgery to address C1-C7 disc protrusion is seen as an elective procedure unless the patient’s symptoms have become debilitating. With the advent of minimally invasive spine procedures, however, deciding whether to undergo surgery is not as difficult as it once was. These state-of-the-art outpatient procedures are particularly appealing because they are less risky, less painful, and require shorter recovery time than traditional open back surgery. To learn more about spine procedures and for a review of your MRI or CT scan, contact the leader in minimally invasive, outpatient spine care – Laser Spine Institute – today.