cervical disc herniationCervical disc herniation is an all too common condition that the providers of Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine diagnose and treat. But what is it, really? Understanding why discs herniate may help you work with your provider to find the right treatment plan for you.

The discs between the vertebrae of the spine act as a cushion to the vertebrae. The discs have a hard outer layer and a gel-like center. If the disc ruptures, or herniates, the gel-like center pushes out into the spinal canal, often pressing against nerves which run through the canal. This pressure creates pain. When the rupture happens in the neck area, also called the cervical area, of the spine, the pain tends to affect the neck, shoulders, chest, arms and hands. It could also cause numbness, weakness, or muscle spasms in those areas.

What causes a cervical disc herniation?
The usual cause of this painful condition is age. The discs degenerate, lose some of the liquid that makes them flexible and rupture. However, cervical disc herniation can also be caused by injury to the spine. For example, if someone hurt his back by lifting a heavy object improperly, the injury could create cracks in the discs, which eventually may rupture. Genetics also play a role in early disc degeneration, and it is something to be aware of if someone in your family has had problems with cervical disc herniation.

How do you treat a cervical disc herniation?
Nonsurgical treatment. A majority of patients with this condition can be treated without surgery. The treatments are designed to reduce the pressure on the nerves, thereby reducing the pain. To reach this goal, doctors could prescribe one or more of the following treatments:

  • a period of rest
  • use of a neck collar
  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • hot and cold packs
  • specific exercises for neck-strengthening
  • physical therapy
  • corticosteroid medication
  • muscle relaxants for muscle spasms

In most cases, these treatments should produce results in as little as 1-2 days, with complete recovery in 4-6 weeks.

Surgical treatment. If nonsurgical treatments do not relieve the patient’s pain, then surgery may be performed to remove the portion of the herniated disc that is pressing against the nerve. Hampton Roads Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine has several neck and spine specialists that are well versed in surgical procedures for the condition.

If you would like to learn more about cervical disc herniation and its treatments, please contact us at (757) 873-1554. Our team of highly qualified orthopaedic specialists are ready to help you get back to doing what you love!