Cervical disc protrusion is a condition in which one of the intervertebral discs of the cervical spine, or neck, has bulged, resulting in pressure being placed on main nerve roots in the neck, causing neck pain and other symptoms. Disc protrusions develop from a variety of causes, the most common being the natural aging process. Symptoms usually abate with a conservative treatment plan.
In a healthy neck, the seven cervical vertebrae (C1 to C7) are separated by tough, fibro-elastic intervertebral discs, which cushion the many movements the neck makes each day. These pads help support the skull and give the neck its flexibility and mobility. Should these discs weaken, bulges can lead to compression of the spinal cord or a neighboring nerve root. It is this nerve compression that causes pain or discomfort from cervical disc protrusion.
Common symptoms of C1-C7 disc protrusion include:
- Chronic, local pain in the neck
- Numbness and tingling in the arms and hands
- Traveling pain radiating along the nerve throughout the arm
- Muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms and elbows
A patient’s specific disc protrusion symptoms depend on the location and severity of the problematic disc. This makes it particularly important to diagnose the origin of a disc protrusion correctly before treating the symptoms. Disc protrusions can be difficult to locate, so a physician typically will rely on medical imagery such as an MRI or CT scan to confirm the presence of a protrusion and ensure that the patient’s symptoms are not related to another underlying issue.
The prognosis for a patient experiencing a cervical disc protrusion is most often good. Normally, symptoms can be managed with a conservative treatment plan that incorporates exercise, rest, heat application and pain medication. Occasionally, however, a patient will not respond to non-surgical treatment, and their condition could warrant spine surgery.
As an alternative to intrusive open back surgery, Laser Spine Institute performs minimally invasive spine procedures, which incorporate state-of-the-art technology to treat patients on an outpatient basis. These procedures can help to address cervical disc protrusion without many of the risks associated with traditional surgery. Furthermore, minimally invasive spine surgery is quicker than open back surgery. To learn more about your treatment options, and for a review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.