Seven delicate bones make up the cervical spine, and they allow us to twist, roll and turn our heads 180 degrees. Between each vertebra are intervertebral discs that separate and cushion the stacked spine, keeping the bones from rubbing together. These discs are made of a fibrous outer layer, the annulus, and a gel-like inner layer called the nucleus—their job is to absorb shock and help protect the vertebrae and sensitive nerves branching from the spinal cord. Healthy intervertebral discs keep our neck comfortable and flexible.
What Is Cervical Disc Herniation?
Over time, these discs between the vertebrae from the head to the chest may become damaged, which causes them to lose their hydration and strength. Due to their decreased flexibility, discs in the neck are more prone to cervical disc herniation, as damaged discs may bulge out or even break open.
What Causes Cervical Disc Herniation?
The most common cause of cervical disc herniation is nothing more than wear and tear—also known as degeneration. As we age, we lose fluid in the cervical discs, which renders them stiff and vulnerable to injury. While degeneration is the most common cause, trauma to the cervical spine may also cause a cervical disc herniation. Further, a cervical spine injury may result in a crack or tear in the outer layer of a cervical disc, pushing the nucleus through the cracks; this can cause the disc to bulge out of place.
Cervical Disc Herniation Symptoms
Each individual may experience different symptoms associated with cervical disc herniation. Because herniated discs often put pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerves, symptoms can vary depending on the location of the affected disc. Common symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness or tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms, chest or hands. While it’s common for cervical disc herniation to cause these symptoms, some individuals with an afflicted disc may experience no pain or symptoms at all if it doesn’t come into contact with adjacent nerves.
Who’s at Risk?
It’s possible for anyone to experience a cervical disc herniation issue. However, some people are more at risk than others. Overall, cervical disc herniation is more common in men and women aged 30 to 50 years old, as well as in active children and young adults. Other people at high risk for cervical disc herniation include those who are overweight, have a degenerative disease, lift weight improperly and/or repetitively and those who smoke.
The MISI Approach to Cervical Disc Herniation Treatment
If physical therapy and medication have proven to be unsuccessful in treating cervical disc herniation pain and symptoms, it may be a wise choice to consider minimally invasive treatment at MISI. While traditional methods of treating herniated cervical discs leave patients in recovery for months, we take a different approach and utilize minimally invasive techniques.
This means, with only a small incision, we are able to remove excess disc material pressing against the nerve or spinal cord, relieving pressure and pain due to cervical disc herniation. With nothing more than a simple bandage, our patients can often leave our facility within 24 hours following surgery. For more information about our approach to minimally invasive treatments for cervical disc herniation, visit our treatment page here.
Are You Suffering from Cervical Disc Herniation?
If you are experiencing painful symptoms related to cervical disc herniation, MISI may be able to give you the relief you deserve. Please, schedule a consultation with us today.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.