Herniated discs also occur in the neck (cervical spine) and, more rarely, in the upper back (thoracic spine).
Cervical Herniated Disc
At Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute, our board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic doctors Richard Hostin, MD, Devesh Ramnath, MD, Ishaq Syed, MD, Shyam Kishan, MD, and Kathryn Wiesman, MD have treated thousands of patients with complex spine conditions that included cervical herniated discs.
A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, is caused by damage to the intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae in the spine. The intervertebral discs are made up of a tough outer layer called the annulus fibrosus and a soft inner core called the nucleus pulposus. When the annulus fibrosus becomes weakened or torn, the nucleus pulposus can bulge out or rupture, causing the disc to press against nearby nerves or the spinal cord. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms, legs, or back.
While a herniated cervical disc can occur from injury or trauma, the effects of aging cause many more cases. Because this ailment occurs over time, patients often don’t notice the symptoms until they become severe. Also, this ailment typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. Unfortunately, it tends to affect older adults because age causes tissue to become less effective. Therefore, the cervical discs crack and other injuries occur to increase the risk of herniation.
Questions and Answers
What are the Symptoms of a Cervical Herniated Disc
The symptoms of a cervical herniated disc can vary depending on the location and severity of the herniation. Common symptoms include pain in the neck, shoulders, and arms, numbness or tingling in the arms or hands, and weakness in the arms or hands. Some people may also experience headaches, dizziness, or difficulty with balance.
How is a Cervical Herniated Disc Diagnosed
A cervical herniated disc is typically diagnosed through a combination of physical examination, imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans, and nerve function tests. Your doctor may also ask about your medical history and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.
What are the Non-Surgical Treatments for a Cervical Herniated Disc
Non-surgical treatments for a cervical herniated disc may include physical therapy, pain management, and the use of cervical traction or cervical collars to support the neck. In some cases, steroid injections may also be used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
The Causes of a Herniated Disc:
- Age: As we get older, the discs in our spine lose water content, making them less flexible and more prone to injury.
- Repetitive stress: Repeated lifting, twisting, or bending can put stress on the discs and increase the risk of herniation.
- Poor posture: Sitting or standing in a slouched position can place undue pressure on the discs and increase the risk of injury.
- Obesity: Excess weight can put added stress on the spine and increase the risk of herniation.
- Genetics: Some people may get herniated discs because of genetic factors.
- Trauma: A sudden impact, such as a fall or car accident, can cause a herniated disc.
- Buldging disc in neck
Symptoms of a Cervical Herniated Disc
To clarify, herniated disc symptoms can differ based on the location of the disc and the compression of any nerves. In this case, symptoms often include:
- Pain in the neck that radiates down the arm towards the hands and fingers
- Numbness or tingling in the shoulders, arms, or hands
- Muscle weakness in hand and/or arms
In severe cases, a herniated disc may put pressure on the spinal cord. Actually, this will cause pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in both arms and possibly even lower in the body.
Symptoms of spinal cord compression may also include:
- Difficulty walking straight or unsteady gait
- A reduction in fine motor skills in the hands and arms
- Painful tingling or feelings like electric shocks in the torso or even into the legs
“Cervical Herniated Disc means that the gel between your vertebra in your neck is coming out. Symptoms are usually neck and arm pain. Treatments are medications, physical therapy exercise, targeted injections and lastly, surgery.”
Herniated Disc Diagnosis
Your doctor will review your medical history. Then he or she will perform a thorough physical exam, and look for any signs of limited mobility. After that, the doctor will ask about any pain, check balance, muscle reflexes, loss of sensation, or muscle weakness.
If doctors suspect a cervical herniated disc, they will use an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis. Because X-rays can only show issues with the bones, the doctor may order a CT or MRI scan.
For imaging, we use a state-of-the-art digital low-dose X-ray system. In less than a minute, this advanced unit takes high-quality patient images. Also, this system can take X-rays of patients in a standing or seated position. Moreover, it’s located inside our Dallas office and you and your doctor can review the X-rays ASAP.
Treatment for a Cervical Herniated Disc
As a result, treatment options range from physical therapy and medicines to surgery. At our offices, our doctors always start with a conservative approach to treatment before thinking about surgery. In addition, our Doctors always take the time to discuss all options with our patients. So we talk with the patient about our options and how treatment depends on age, health, and severity of the problem.
Most patients see rapid improvement with medicines that reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle stiffness that accompany a herniated disc. Medicines manage the pain while any numbness or tingling sensations tend to improve with time and rest.
Non-surgical treatments for a Cervical Herniation Disc include:
- Physical therapy and/or exercises to relieve the pressure on the nerves
- Medications to reduce swelling and pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Epidural steroid injections and nerve root injections reduce swelling around the affected disc and nerves, as well as relieve acute pain radiating to the hips or down the legs.
Cervical Herniated Disc Surgery
If the pain, numbness, and other symptoms persist for more than 6-12 weeks, or if evidence suggests a severe spinal cord compression, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Surgical Treatment Includes:
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Spinal Fusion involve removing the bad disc through the front of the neck. This will relieve the pressure on the nerves and/or spinal cord. Because most (if not all) of the disc gets removed, a fusion procedure will then stabilize the spine. A fusion procedure involves a small bone graft, screws, and rods to ensure that the bones fuse properly.
Posterior Cervical Decompression (Microdiscectomy). In cases where the herniation of the disc appears minor, your doctor may use a minimally invasive technique. The Doctor removes the portion of the disc pressing on the nerve and makes a small incision on the back of the neck. Because only the small herniated portion of the disc gets removed, this surgery does not usually need to add a spinal fusion procedure.
Why Choose the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute
There are many reasons why you should choose the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute to treat your lumbar spinal scoliosis. Here are a few:
- They have a team of experienced and board-certified surgeons who specialize in treating spinal conditions, including scoliosis.
- They offer a variety of treatment options, including non-surgical and surgical treatments.
- They have a state-of-the-art facility that is equipped with the latest technology for diagnosing and treating spinal conditions.
- They have a reputation throughout the Nation for providing the very best spinal care for their patients.
- They are conveniently located in three locations in Dallas, Plano, and Frisco, Texas.
If you are considering treatment for lumbar spinal scoliosis, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with the Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute. They can help you to understand your condition and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.