A cervical herniated disc is a relatively common occurrence for many patients to experience. In fact, the cervical spinal region is the second most common area to suffer both herniated discs and degenerative disc disease, bested only by the lower lumbar spine.
Cervical herniations are the number one reason why a person might seek care for neck and upper back pain. Cervical disc pathologies are also known to be some of the most difficult conditions to successfully and permanently resolve, regardless of the type of care undertaken.
This article will
examine some facts and myths of cervical bulging discs and will also
provide some recommendations on treatment progression.
The neck consists of 7 individual vertebral bones named C1 through C7. C1 and C2 join directly, without any intervertebral spacer. In between each of the remaining cervical vertebrae are intervertebral discs which separate the spinal bones from one another. These discs spacers cushion the spine from force and trauma, as well as facilitate flexibility and individual vertebral level movement.
Degenerative changes in the spine can also make discs bulge or rupture. Degenerative disc herniations are rarely symptomatic and most are not even discovered, unless the patient undergoes routine testing for an unrelated health issue or after a coincidental injury.
Here are some common knowledge and lesser known facts about herniations in the cervical spine:
Cervical discs are smaller and thinner than discs in the rest of the spine.
Cervical discs desiccate quickly, due to decreased mass.
Most cervical disc degeneration is universal and expected.
Cervical discs can occasionally compress spinal nerve roots, causing a pinched nerve.
A herniated disc in the neck is certainly a big worry for any diagnosed patient. The neck is a sensitive and vital region responsible for fulfilling the mobility requirements of the head. It is also a crucial nerve center serving the neurological needs of the entire upper body. Any patient who receives a diagnosis of a herniated or degenerated cervical disc is sure to experience a considerable nocebo effect.
Regardless of the location of a herniated disc, it is important to remember that disc conditions rarely cause lasting pain. While some traumatic disc injuries might create acute pain in the neck, shoulders and arms, these symptoms will typically go away all by themselves within 2 to 8 weeks.
Chronic neck pain which is blamed on a herniated or degenerated disc is commonly misdiagnosed and might actually be due to some other source, such as ischemia. The best recommendation for chronic neck pain is make sure the diagnosis is correct before pursuing any treatment. If you are not convinced of the diagnostic validity, then it may be prudent to try knowledge therapy first, since there is no significant cost and no risk.
If this treatment does not resolve your pain, consider a targeted physical treatment, such as spinal decompression. Ongoing symptomatic therapy is not advised, nor is continuing treatment with drugs.
Most importantly, try to avoid surgery at all costs, since most procedures can do more damage than good. Always save even the least invasive surgical interventions as a final option.