There are 6 cervical discs located in your neck, which act as shock absorbers and prevent your cervical vertebrae from grinding against each other during neck movements. As your body ages, however, the cervical discs lose water and become stiff. These biochemical changes along with a slouching posture, improper nutrition, direct trauma, lack of exercise, and tobacco abuse can cause disc herniation, which is the displacement of the disc material beyond the intervertebral space.
According to research studies, cervical disk herniations occur most commonly in individuals over the age of 40 who are suffering from degenerative disc disease.
Sometimes, a herniated disc may be asymptomatic and only be discovered during an imaging study for an unrelated cause, but most often you will have neck pain and stiffness. The pain may be sharp or dull and can also radiate down the arms to the fingers. Certain positions or neck movements may aggravate the pain.
Conservative therapy is the first line of treatment of cervical disc herniation and includes limited bed rest, physical therapy, use of a cervical pillow and/or home cervical traction, medications, and epidural steroid injections.
Surgery should be considered when conservative therapy fails to resolve symptoms. Minimally invasive surgery may be performed, which involves the use of specialized narrow instruments and improved optics to view, access, and remove the herniated cervical disc material. A section of the cervical spine will be fused to keep the intervertebral disc space open. The advantages of minimally invasive surgery include focused removal of damaged tissue, minimal disruption of healthy surrounding structures, less blood loss, and quicker recovery. In some cases, depending on the type of disc herniation and symptoms, open surgery may be deemed necessary.
If you have been suffering from neck pain that has not resolved despite conservative care, do visit the Spine Specialists at North Central Surgical Center for an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendation.