Cervical Disc Herniation

Cervical Disc Herniation

That pain in the neck you feel isn’t something to overlook. It could be due to poor posture while sleeping or twisting your neck too far, but it can also be due to an underlying condition impacting your skeletal makeup. Cervical disc herniation is one of the common causes of neck pain. Many people don’t realize that they have an underlying cause of their pain. They believe the condition occurred because of the way they moved or perhaps bending the neck for long periods of time looking up at a monitor. However, our neck pain doctors in NYC can often help you to pinpoint exactly why you are suffering from this pain and offer solutions to improving it.

When Is Neck Pain More Than Just Stress?

Individuals who have mild to severe neck pain that sometimes seems to travel into the upper back or shoulders should seek out care for cervical disc herniation. You may also find that this pain gets worse as you move and your skin in this area could feel painful when touched. These are all indications that the spinal column is compressing the disc, a sac that lies in between your vertebrae, and that is causing pain on a nerve in the area. When this happens, it does not usually go away on its own. Your symptoms may improve day to day, but it seems to always come back. If you have symptoms like these, it’s important to come in to see our team of doctors to discuss the underlying cause of it.

What Are the Benefits of Care for Neck Pain in New York?

When you visit our New York City offices to discuss your neck pain with our experienced doctors, you’ll learn what the underlying cause of the pain is as well as what treatment options may be available to relieve it. What’s important to know here is that neck pain like this can often be improved significantly. You can gain back any lost mobility you have in most cases. That can mean improving your overall quality of life, too.

Cervical disc herniation is a neck disorder.  A brief review of key spinal anatomy can help answer ‘what is’ a herniated disc.

In between each of the neck’s vertebrae is an intervertebral disc. The structure of a disc’s outer layer (annulus fibrosus) is made of strong fibrocartilage; it is constructed similar to a radial tire. The annulus fibrosus encases a gel-like interior matter, the nucleus pulposus (Figure 1). A disc herniates when the annulus fibrosus breaks open allowing some of the nucleus pulposus to leak out (Figure 2) into the spinal canal and/or onto spinal nerve roots. Spinal cord and/or nerve compression (i.e., pinched nerve) causes pain and other symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • Neck pain: mild, moderate, severe, or varying
  • Pain that travels (cervical radiculopathy); sometimes into the upper back, shoulders, and arms.
  • Movement aggravates pain.
  • Neck and upper extremity muscle spasms, cramping
  • Unusual sensations: tingling, numbness, pins and needles
  • Skin tenderness or sensations that follow the path of a cervical nerve root.
  • Arm or upper extremity weakness, sometimes functional loss.

What can cause cervical disc herniation?

The neck is the most mobile part of the spine.  The neck rotates, turns side-to-side, ear to shoulder, moves forward and backward—some movements may be combined simultaneously.  Cervical discs absorb and distribute external body forces during rest and activity.  Ligaments, tendons and muscles help protect the cervical spine by limiting excessive motion.  However, even the strongest ligaments and muscles can succumb to sudden and extreme force, such as might happen during a car accident (i.e., whiplash).

Cervical disc herniation can develop gradually as a result of degenerative spinal changes associated with aging, smoking, inactive lifestyle, poor posture and body mechanics. While you cannot stop growing older, you can control some of the other factors!

Does my neck require immediate medical care?

When neck pain develops suddenly for no apparent reason or after an accident, it is natural to be concerned.  It is your health, and that is important!  The list below can help you determine if your neck pain requires urgent care.

  • Neck pain after injury: a fall, car or industrial accident
  • Persistent neck pain that doesn’t stop or worsens.
  • Pain moves into upper extremities (i.e., arms)
  • Extremity numbness, tingling sensations, weakness
  • Neck pain with a fever
  • Balance difficulty
  • Hand clumsiness
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction (rare)

Diagnostic examination

The purpose of a diagnostic examination is to learn about your general health, lifestyle, past medical history, and current back problem.  The information gathered by our doctors during your exam is combined with imaging or other test results to confirm your diagnosis.

Questions our Doctors may ask include:

  • When did your neck pain start?
  • Did a particular event precede neck pain?
  • Has your pain improved or worsened?
  • Does neck pain radiate into another part of your body?
  • On a scale of zero (no pain) to 10 (agony), what is your current pain level?
  • Does pain affect your ability to work or perform ordinary activities of daily life?
  • Do pain and symptoms disrupt your sleep?
  • Other questions specifically related to you and your symptoms.

MRI is performed to evaluate your cervical spine.  Sometimes a plain x-ray is ordered.  Depending on the results of your examination and MRI, we may conduct electrodiagnostic studies.

Interventional treatment

Seldom does cervical disc herniation require spine surgery!  At Rehabilitation Medicine Center of New York, our doctors may combine non-operative interventional treatments to resolve neck pain. Interventional means to ‘intervene’ to stop and manage pain while you heal.

Treatments are administered in a step-wise way.  We believe less can be more, and we apply that philosophy to our treatment approach.  For example, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and passive physical therapy may be as effective as a narcotic painkiller, but with fewer side effects.  However, no two patients are alike, and your lumbar herniated disc may require more aggressive care.

Neck pain treatments may include: