Cervical degenerative disc disease

Cervical degenerative disc disease typically manifests itself as a sore, stiff neck. However, anatomic changes resulting from the disease may cause nerve compression and pain that radiates to other areas of your body, including the shoulders, arms and hands.

The cervical spine is located in the neck and upper back area, and it consists of seven vertebrae separated by discs that are filled with a gel-like substance. These discs allow the neck to turn and bend freely. Cervical degenerative disc disease occurs when the discs deteriorate after years of supporting the head, or when they are damaged in a traumatic injury involving falling or twisting. You can learn more about the causes and symptoms of neck disc degeneration on our degenerative disc disease page.

When the discs wear out over time, the vertebrae move closer to each other, narrowing the space between them and possibly pinching nerve roots that are threaded between the vertebrae. Over time, the neck becomes less flexible, and the cervical nerve compression or irritation may give rise to pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.

Disc degeneration in the neck occurs less frequently than in the lower back, but when it does occur, it can negatively affect patients’ daily lives. To remedy the bothersome symptoms of cervical degenerative disc disease, there are several treatment options available, including:

  • Cervical traction that will stretch the neck muscles
  • Wearing of a neck brace that will prevent the neck for moving into uncomfortable positions
  • Application of cold or hot packs that can control
  • Taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen that can help manage pain and inflammation

Contact your physician if you are experiencing a stiff neck or numbness in the shoulder or arm. He or she can determine the cause of your discomfort and recommend treatments to reduce your pain. Often, conservative rehabilitation provides sufficient relief from most symptoms, but sometimes patients do not respond to these treatments. If you’ve attempted these solutions to no avail, surgery may be suggested. In that case, consider the minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. They offer a shorter recovery period^ than traditional open cervical surgery. Contact us today for a review of your MRI or CT scan and to receive additional information about Laser Spine Institute. You can also visit our lumbar degenerative disc disease page for more detailed information concerning lumbar degenerative disc disease.