Cervical ruptured disc

By Michael Perry, M.D.

A cervical ruptured disc is another term for a herniated disc in the cervical (upper) spine. This condition can cause local neck pain as well as radiating pain to the shoulders, arms and hands. Additional symptoms may include tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the same areas. These symptoms can make life difficult, taking you away from friends, family and everyday tasks like grocery shopping or working in the yard.

Causes of a cervical ruptured disc

A cervical ruptured disc occurs when one of the spinal discs between the cervical vertebrae develops a tear. Each disc consists of a tough outer layer which encases a gel-like substance that gives the spine cushioning and support. Aging, degenerative disc disease, poor posture, stress on the spine or injuries can cause a disc to rupture, pushing the nucleus into the spinal canal or nerve roots. Pain and other symptoms can develop if the expelled disc material puts pressure on the spinal cord or an exiting nerve root.

A ruptured disc can occur anywhere along the spine. In addition to a cervical ruptured disc affecting the upper spine, a lumbar ruptured disc (in the lower spine) and thoracic ruptured disc (in the middle spine) are also possible.

Diagnosing and treating a cervical ruptured disc

If you’re experiencing symptoms you think may be related to a ruptured disc, contact your physician. He or she can determine if you have a cervical ruptured disc or if your neck pain is caused by another condition. A diagnosis made through a combination of a physical examination as well as the taking of diagnostic imagery like an MRI.

Most physicians recommend an initial course of conservative treatment for a cervical ruptured disc. Common methods include:

  • Over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Heat packs
  • Ice packs (cryotherapy)
  • Cervical traction
  • Mild stretching exercises
  • Massage therapy
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Ultrasound

On occasion, some patients require surgery to treat the symptoms of a severely ruptured disc that have not responded to conservative treatments. There are alternative surgical options available for pain relief, including the state-of-the-art, minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. With a much faster recuperation period^ than other treatments, like traditional open back surgery, our procedures may be able to help you regain your quality of life.

Contact us today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive spine procedures.