What is a herniated disc in the neck?

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc in the neck, it is likely you are looking for knowledge about this spinal condition. Those who have a herniated disc in the neck may already be well aware of the condition’s symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling and/or muscle weakness in the neck, upper back and arms, but it can help to learn more. By learning about how changes to the spine cause this condition and what effective treatment consists of, you can become more involved in your treatment and give yourself the best chance of finding the relief you deserve.

How does a herniated disc in the neck occur?

In the spinal column, flexible discs are positioned between the vertebrae, providing cushion from pressure caused by bending, twisting and flexing. Since the spine is responsible for supporting a large percentage of the body’s weight, this puts enormous stress on the discs and contributes to the development of conditions like a herniated disc. This is especially true of the cervical (upper) region of the spine that runs through the neck, which like the lumbar (lower) spine, is more flexible than other regions.

Each spinal Disc contains a jellylike nucleus that it is housed within an outer fibrous shell. Over time, age-related changes cause the discs to lose water content, become weak and brittle and less able to absorb the shock of weight and movement. These forces cause the discs to lose their shape and develop a rip or tear. When the annulus fibrosus ruptures, the nucleus pulposus can be pushed through the tear and enter into the spinal column. When this occurs in the cervical spine, it is called a herniated disc in the neck.

Treatment options

It is possible to have a herniated disc in the neck and not experience symptoms. Herniated disc pain is typically the result of irritation or compression of nervous tissue by the ruptured disc material. Initial treatment to relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck usually consists of doctor-recommended conservative options, such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Hot/cold therapy
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Lifestyle changes like improving posture or quitting smoking

If several weeks or months of conservative treatment prove ineffective, you may be asked to consider surgery. If you have concerns about the risks and difficulties of a traditional open spine procedure, consider the minimally invasive spine surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute.

Contact us to learn how we have helped more than 60,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain since 2005. Ask about getting a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* by one of our experts to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.

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