A prolapsed cervical disc is another name for a herniated, or ruptured, disc in the neck or upper back. It occurs among the seven top-most vertebrae of the spine, known as the cervical vertebrae (abbreviated C1-C7). Although disc herniation is more common in the lower back, the C4-C7 levels of the cervical spine also are vulnerable to disc prolapse as the body ages.
A herniated or prolapsed disc can occur because of a traumatic injury, but is more commonly the result of typical changes that occur in the body as we age. As the water content in intervertebral discs begins to diminish through the years, discs lose their elasticity. Everyday back and neck movements can squeeze a brittle disc, which forces the disc’s gel-like nucleus against the sides of the disc’s fibrous outer wall. Eventually, the wall tears or splits, and nucleus material extrudes into the spinal canal.
When this happens, there is a chance extruded disc material might irritate, or impinge, an adjacent nerve root or the spinal cord. This isn’t always the case with a prolapsed cervical disc, but when nerve irritation occurs within the cervical spine (or neck), it can cause pain, tingling, sensation loss, and muscle weakness throughout the upper body, arms, and hands. The location of the impinged nerve root determines the site where prolapsed disc symptoms are experienced.
A prolapsed cervical disc can produce symptoms in the following areas of the body:
- Upper back
- Deltoid muscles
- Head (migraine symptoms)
Most patients with a prolapsed cervical disc, prolapsed lumbar disc (in the lower back), or thoracic disc prolapse (in the mid-back) manage their symptoms non-surgically, using physical therapy, pain medications, exercise, or rest. If chronic pain persists after weeks or months of conservative treatment, a doctor might suggest surgery as an option. If this is true for you, Laser Spine Institute (LSI) is the place to rediscover a life without pain. Contact LSI to learn about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures and for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.