Cervical Disc Herniation
Cervical disc herniation typically occurs as we age. Over time discs can lose elasticity and ligaments around the discs can get frail. Damaged discs can rupture or bulge and cause what is known as a slipped or herniated disc. The vast majority of herniated discs occur in the lumbar or the cervical area of the spine.
So where exactly are discs located? Discs act as shock absorbers and are comprised of strong connective tissue located between vertebrae. The cervical spine is located in the neck area and consists of seven vertebrae in total located between the skull and the chest area. Also in the cervical spine are two facet joints that assist in the bending and rotating of the neck and upper back.
A Closer Look At The Discs
A disc is comprised of the "annulus fibrosus," a tough outer layer and the "nucleus pulposus," an almost gel-like centre. Here's where age can affect the discs; the centre of a disc can begin to lose water content which results in the loss of the cushiony effect. As a disc deteriorates, tearing can occur in the outer layer. Displacement of the disc's centre can therefore occur therefore becoming a herniated or ruptured disc. A herniated disc can create pressure on the nerves resulting in tingling, numbness pain or weakness in the arms or shoulders. The first telltale sign that this has happened is usually neck pain.
Cervical radiculopathy basically means the pinching or inflammation of a cervical nerve. So this is cervical disc herniation. It can also be cervical spondylosis which means there are degenerative changes including: the contour of the disc bulging; narrowing of the disc space and; spurs that are the result of the calcification of the disc.
A medical professional will conduct a thorough examination to determine the exact location of the pain as well as an examination of the neck and complete assessment to determine if there is a loss of sensation or reflex changes
The family physician can also provide a cervical disc herniation diagnosis by requisitioning an X-ray image, CT scan or an MRI. An X-ray will reveal narrowing of the disc space and bone spurs but it cannot show a disc herniation or nerves in the spine. The MRI and CT scans can provide a better picture of all the spinal elements and will usually determine if there is a cervical disc herniation.
Nonsurgical Treatment For Cervical Disc Herniation
Many patients will discover that there is a significant improvement with nonsurgical treatment. A qualified health professional can prescribe nonsurgical treatments including rest, a neck collar, heat treatment, cold packs, physical therapy, hands on therapy, as well as specific exercises. The main objective of nonsurgical treatment is to reduce the irritation of the nerve from the herniated disc material so that pain is relieved. So long as there is a specialized care program designed for your exact needs, and you adhere to the health professional's advice, pain management or elimination can be achieved.
Chiropractic and physiotherapy treatment options are very effective and for most patients. Treatment may involve several visits but the results are worth it.
Spinal decompression therapy is another effective method to manage and/or eliminate pain. It's crucial that patients follow the treatment plan as explained by their health professional in order to maximize the end result which is elimination of pain and increased quality of life.
The good news is that very few people suffering with a cervical disc herniation requires surgery. Most individuals are satisfied with the outcome of nonsurgical treatment.