Cervical (neck) herniated disc — overview, causes and treatment options

A herniated disc occurs when a disc in the spine is compressed and breaks open, leaking the inner disc fluid into the spinal canal.

Patients with a herniated disc in the cervical spine (neck) may experience chronic neck pain and radiating pain in the arm, neck, jaw and/or head. Some severe cases of herniated discs may cause occasional facial numbness.

At Laser Spine Institute, we understand that your chronic neck pain can be debilitating and can cause a decline in your quality of life. We also understand the frustration that you’ve felt when conservative treatments fail to yield any lasting pain relief. If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc, we encourage you to contact our Care Team. We can discuss your spine condition with you and explain available treatment options so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs. We are here to walk you through the process to recapturing your quality of life.

Causes of cervical herniated discs

A herniated disc is caused by severe compression in the spine, usually due to general wear and tear or injury. Usually, a herniated disc will either occur in the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back) due to the natural degeneration of the spine over time.

The cervical spine is responsible for supporting and stabilizing the head and neck, as well as allowing movement at the pivot point between the head and neck. This pivot point (C2 or C3 vertebra) allows the head to tilt left and right. Over years of repetitious motion and strain, the vertebrae in the neck start to wear down the disc and joint found between the vertebrae. As the vertebrae compress the disc, the disc may start to expand and flatten under the pressure. If the pressure does not stop, the outer lining of the disc may break, causing the jellylike fluid inside the disc to leak into the spinal canal. This is called a herniated disc.

If the jellylike fluid from the herniated disc impacts a nerve root in the spinal canal, the patient may experience sharp pain in the neck and in the extremities, such as the head, arm and/or jaw. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important for you to meet with your physician to discuss treatment options for pain relief.

Treatment options for cervical herniated discs

Most patients begin with conservative treatments to help reduce the pain caused by a herniated disc in the neck. The most common forms of conservative treatment include chiropractic care and physical therapy. However, if you do not find pain relief from these treatments, you may consider a surgical option to treat your herniated disc at the source.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer safer, more effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive surgery treats cervical herniated discs through a small, 1-inch incision using muscle-sparing techniques to reduce our patients’ recovery time* compared to traditional open neck surgery.

Typically, we offer a minimally invasive decompression surgery called a discectomy to treat a cervical herniated disc. During a minimally invasive decompression surgery, one of our surgeons will remove a piece of the damaged disc that is impacting the nerve root in the spinal canal and causing the local and radiating pain in your neck and extremities.

However, if the herniated disc in your neck is more advanced, you may need a minimally invasive stabilization surgery to treat your condition. During a minimally invasive stabilization surgery, the surgeon will remove the entire herniated disc and then insert an implant in the empty disc space to stabilize the spine.

To learn more about the treatment options available for your spine condition or the streamlined patient experience at our surgery center, we invite you to contact our Care Team, read through our patient testimonials or browse our FAQ page.

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