Have you ever wondered about tingling in your arms or pain in your upper back that won’t go away? If so, you might have signs of cervical disc herniation.
The Anatomy of Your Spine
When most people think of herniated discs, they likely think of the lower back. However, cervical disc herniation happens in the mid to upper back. The cervical spine is made up of the seven vertebrae closest to your skull. This upper part of your spine supports the weight and movement of your head and shoulders, and it protects the nerve endings in your brain.
As with your lower spine, your cervical spine has rubbery sections between the vertebrae that are called cervical discs. The spinal discs are made up of a soft, gelatinous center that’s known as the nucleus pulposus. This center is inside a tougher, more rubbery outer layer that’s known as the annulus pulposus.
Understanding Disc Herniation
A herniated disc happens when the protective outer layer tears and some of the inner disc ruptures and comes through the outer cervical disc wall. Sometimes this is called a slipped or a ruptured disc. This happens because of excessive strain or stress being put on the discs from acts such as heavy lifting or severe back strain. It could also occur from having a career that’s hard on the body with physical labor, resulting in a lot of wear and tear on the spine. Sudden injury can also lead to disc herniation.
Signs and Symptoms of Cervical Disc Herniation
If you’re ever concerned about having this common injury, there are signs and symptoms to look out for. Some of the symptoms include:
- Weakness of the hand or arms
- Numbness or tingling feelings in the shoulder, arm, or hands
- Pain that feels like it’s moving through the arm down to the hands and fingers
Sometimes, a cervical herniated disc can cause what’s known as spinal cord compression, which is when disc material pushes against the spinal cord. Signs of spinal cord compression include:
- Difficulty with fine motor skills in the hands and the arms
- Awkward or stumbling gait
- Tingling or “shock” feelings down the torso or into the legs
Cervical Disc Herniation Treatment – General Options
Most of the time, a cervical herniated disc can be managed with things such as:
- Over the counter pain medications like NSAID pain relievers
- Regular physical therapy to help strengthen and stretch the neck
- Heat or ice therapy
- Activity modification
Sometimes, your doctor might suggest oral steroids and an epidural injection or selective nerve root injection.
Surgical Treatment Options
For more extreme cervical disc herniation, surgical treatments are the best option. A correct cervical disc herniation treatment if the pain or problems last longer than six to twelve weeks or if the pain or problems it’s causing are disabling may be a surgical option. Surgery for a herniated disc is effective 95% to 98% of the time in providing symptom relief. Surgical treatment can be done with a minimal amount of postoperative pain and morbidity risk. These surgeries are called Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) or cervical spinal fusions.
An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is a surgical procedure to treat nerve root or spinal cord compression that’s done by decompressing the spinal cord or nerve roots of the cervical spine with a discectomy followed by the intervertebral fusion to stabilize the corresponding vertebrae. This is a last-resort surgery and is used when non-surgical methods have failed.
Contact Florida Spine Associates
Having disc herniation is a super common problem. If you think it’s a problem that you’re dealing with, contact us. We can help you figure out the correct cervical disc herniation treatment that will work for you to stop the pain that a disc herniation could cause.