Herniated disc neck pain is an upsetting and agonizing experience which can really limit the functionality of the upper body, as well as restrict the mobility of the head. Chronic neck pain is the second most common dorsopathy condition, bested only by persistent lower back pain. While neck pain is widely suffered, most cases can not be definitively linked to any of the various structural abnormalities often seen in the neck. Medical research shows that most cases of chronic neck and back pain are caused by idiopathic reasons, rather than verifiably connected to known structural irregularities.
This article will provide commentary on cervical spinal disc herniations and the consequences they might have on the spinal anatomy.
Herniated Disc Neck Pain Conditions
The cervical discs are instrumental in maintaining a healthy upper spine. These discs are thinner and lighter than the intervertebral discs in the rest of the spinal column. When one of these discs bulges or ruptures, the physical effect might produce pain, but the psychological effect is sure to enact fear and anxiety. These psychoemotional factors are just as dangerous, if not more damaging, than the physical disc condition.
A herniated disc in the neck, caused by normal spinal degeneration, is not likely to create pain or related symptoms. These events occur as part of the normal intervertebral aging process, which many doctors have vilified by using the ludicrous name degenerative disc disease.
Cervical herniated discs which occur suddenly due to trauma can be painful for a time, although they are not inherently symptomatic. Regardless, these conditions usually resolve in a matter of a month or two, even if no formal treatment is provided. It is rare for a herniated disc to create chronic neck pain.
When chronic symptoms do occur, they can only be generated if the disc is structurally compressing or chemically irritating a nearby nerve tissue, such as the spinal cord or a spinal neurological root. This is why objective neurological evaluation and correlation is of paramount importance for anyone diagnosed with a cervical disc protrusion.
Misdiagnosed Neck Pain from a Bulging Disc
Like many other spinal abnormalities, herniated discs are blamed for sourcing pain when they are often innocent and coincidental to the symptoms. In the neck region, disc desiccation is blamed for contributing to osteoarthritis. Well, DDD can contribute to arthritic change, but this is yet another normal part of the spinal aging process and is not normally problematic in its milder forms.
Occasionally, an osteophyte can grow in a bad location and enact nerve compression, but this is a rare occurrence, despite the overly common diagnosis. General arthritic debris can also narrow the central canal space, but this is expected with age and only occasionally becomes symptomatic.
A herniated disc is often blamed for causing pain-inducing spinal stenosis, although this is very rare, especially in the cervical spine. In cases where other canal narrowing conditions exist at the same level, symptom-producing versions of stenosis are far more likely.
Bulging discs are most commonly thought to cause nerve pain through foraminal stenosis. This is also called a pinched nerve and is diagnosed in countless patients. Research has proven that in order for this to actually occur, the disc would have to block almost the entire foraminal opening, and produce significant force on the nerve, which is practically unheard of. When it does occur, symptoms should include objective versions of numbness and eventual weakness; not chronic pain.
Sometimes, when no other cause can be found to explain the symptoms, discogenic pain is diagnosed. This diagnosis is extremely controversial, since it seems anatomically impossible that the tiny nerves implicated in these pain conditions could produce the severe and wide spanning symptoms usually experienced by the patient.
Verdict on Herniated Disc Neck Pain
The herniated disc facts clearly point to the reality of this common structural condition, while the medical system often perpetuates the myths. In essence, herniated discs are not inherently painful, but some might create pain and neurological symptoms. This is especially true for those disc bulges caused by sudden traumatic injury. However, even in the symptomatic cases, research has clearly shown that most disc conditions will not cause long lasting pain.
Herniated discs rarely require medical treatment and research also supports the fact that patients who do not seek any special medical care for their back pain heal faster and more completely than patients who do undergo care. These statistics make it very difficult to take the diagnosis of a herniated disc too seriously.
I am now aware that every single disc in my neck is herniated, as well as 4 in my upper back, making 10 in a row. Additionally, I still have the 2 herniations deemed responsible for causing my low back issues for decades at L4/L5 and L5/S1. I am not worried about most of these disc abnormalities, but there are a few which are concerning. One, in particular, is markedly displacing and pressuring the spinal cord and has been theorized to be the possible source of my past symptoms. However, since the disc condition is still the same and my pain is long gone, this is highly unlikely to have ever been the case.
Unless your herniated disc neck pain is verifiably linked to known intervertebral pathologies, it may be wise for you to consider it to be incidental rather than causative, based on solid research evidence from countless international studies over many years time. If you still need to learn more about how spinal discs and neck symptoms may be related, then please take the time to read this excellent discussion on Neck-Pain-Treatment.Org detailing herniated disc neck pain.