What is cervical degenerative disc disease and how is it caused?

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.

Treatment options for cervical degenerative disc disease

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 — will stretch the neck muscles
  • Wearing a neck brace — will prevent the neck from moving into uncomfortable positions
  • Application of cold and/or hot packs — will reduce swelling around the irritated or compressed spinal nerve
  • Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen — can help manage pain and inflammation

If you are experiencing a stiff neck or numbness in the shoulders or arms, contact your physician. 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. Our minimally invasive procedures offer many advantages over traditional open neck and back surgery, including lower risk of infection and no lengthy recovery.^

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about the treatment options we offer for those with cervical degenerative disc disease. We can provide you with a free MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive procedures. You can also visit our lumbar degenerative disc disease page for more detailed information concerning this condition.