Neck disc protrusion

A neck disc protrusion is a condition in which a disc in the cervical (upper) region of the spine has pushed beyond its normal boundaries. Pain and other symptoms occur when a protrusion presses on nerve roots or the spinal cord.

To better understand the discomfort that a neck disc protrusion can cause, consider the many simple activities, like nodding, reading, laughing, sleeping or driving, that rely on the smooth motion and structural integrity of the neck. If you are experiencing a neck disc protrusion, you probably already realize the negative impact it can have on your quality of life.

Causes of neck disc protrusion

The sections of the spine that undergo some of the most wear and tear are the spinal discs. Spinal discs are shock-absorbing pads located between the vertebrae. They help maintain the spinal structure while allowing a wide range of motion. As we age, though, these discs can dehydrate and become more susceptible to damage.

As the discs weaken, they may lose their shape and push beyond their normal boundary. This process may create a bulge or protrusion of disc material that applies compressive pressure to surrounding spinal nerves. A disc protrusion in the neck, even if it is a mild disc protrusion, may cause radiating pain, tingling, numbness and loss of mobility.

Diagnosing a neck disc protrusion

The first step in the recovery of a neck disc protrusion is a confirmed diagnosis. A physician must make an accurate diagnosis to prescribe the correct treatment. When consulting your physician, try to be specific and honest when describing symptoms associated with neck disc protrusion. The following questions are likely to be asked:

  • Do you experience severe headaches?
  • Do you ever feel a prolonged, dull ache in your neck?
  • Do you feel sharp pain radiating down your shoulders and arms?
  • Do your hands ever go numb?
  • Do your arms and/or hands feel weak?

If these symptoms sound familiar to you, it’s likely you have a cervical disc protrusion.

Treatment for neck disc protrusion

Once you have received a neck disc protrusion diagnosis from a physician, he or she will probably start you with a conservative, nonsurgical treatment plan. This may include a combination of pain medication, physical therapy, hot/cold compresses and lifestyle changes.

If your symptoms do not respond to conservative treatment and your condition worsens, your physician may then recommend surgery. It is important to explore the full range of surgical options when deciding on the best treatment for you.

If you are concerned about the risks and difficulties that go with a traditional open spine procedure, consider minimally invasive spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures are an alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery, offering our patients a shorter recovery time with less scarring.^

Contact us for your no-cost MRI review* and more information about treating a neck disc protrusion — you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.