The anatomy of a slipped disc in the neck

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Slipped disc is a nonmedical term that often describes conditions like herniated discs, bulging discs or spondylolisthesis — which is slippage of the vertebrae. This can occur at any level of the spine, but is common in the cervical (upper) region of the spine due to the amount of weight this area supports while still being flexible enough for movement.

If you believe a slipped disc is the cause of your neck pain or other symptoms like tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and hands, you should see your doctor for diagnosis and to develop a treatment plan. In the meantime, it can be beneficial to educate yourself more about the anatomy of slipped discs in the neck to help you be more confident while working with your doctor to find lasting relief.

Causes of slipped discs

The purpose of the spinal discs is to cushion the vertebrae to prevent friction and allow for smooth movement.

However due to natural aging combined with years of stress from normal movement, the discs begin to deteriorate in the following ways:

  • They lose water content
  • Their collagen levels decrease
  • They become less elastic
  • Their height diminishes

As the disc gradually degenerates, it becomes more vulnerable to developing tears or bulges that can cause constriction in the spinal column and put pressure on spinal nerves. This is what can lead to the local pain and traveling symptoms commonly associated with degenerative disc conditions.

Treatments for a slipped disc in the neck

Once your doctor diagnoses the underlying cause of the slipped disc in your neck, your next step will likely be a conservative treatment plan. Conservative treatment plans can include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Stretching and yoga
  • Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Epidural steroid injections

In some cases, surgery may become an option if conservative treatments have been exhausted without bringing the relief necessary to comfortably engage in everyday activities. As you research the spine surgery options available, we encourage you to look into the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures offer several advantages over traditional open neck surgery, including a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication.

To treat a damaged disc, we offer a range of minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgical procedures. The type of surgery recommended can depend on the severity of your condition and your specific situation, though many of our patients are recommended for a decompression surgery.

Find out if you are a candidate for the minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute by contacting us today and requesting a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*