What is a herniated disc in the neck?

Having a herniated disc in the neck can be a difficult condition to live with, affecting everything from driving to work in the morning to getting a good night’s sleep. This condition occurs when nucleus material from a spinal disc in the cervical (upper) spine pushes out through a torn or weakened outer layer. If disc material compresses a spinal nerve it can lead to chronic neck pain, numbness and tingling in the fingertips, radiating pain throughout the upper body, difficulty walking and other symptoms.

While this is a potentially debilitating condition, there are a range of treatments available. A physician will be able to determine the right approach depending on the patient’s health, the cause of the problem, the severity of the symptoms and other similar variables.

How a herniated disc in the neck develops

The spine consists of a vertical stack of bones, called vertebrae, which are linked together by joints and cushioned by discs. These discs sit in between vertebrae, acting as shock absorbers, with two main roles:

  • Preventing the vertebral bodies from grinding against one another
  • Allowing for basic spinal flexibility

Each disc consists of a thick outer wall and a gel-like nucleus, which together are put under tremendous stress from supporting the weight of the upper body. With age, the discs lose elasticity, making them less able to function properly and withstand the pressure being placed on them. In the cervical spine, the weight of the head combined with the flexibility required of the neck make this a common area for a herniated disc to develop.

Treatment options

Upon diagnosing this condition most doctors will recommend conservative treatments such as rest, physical therapy exercises, massage, hot and cold compression and medication. Surgery is usually seen as a last-resort option to be considered if weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring the relief necessary for a return to normal activity.

If you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc in your neck and have been recommended for surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive spine surgery that is performed on an outpatient basis. We offer a no-cost review of your recent MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.

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