Millions of people suffer neck, shoulder, and arm pain. A herniated disc is a common cause of this pain. Intervertebral discs, which act as the spine’s shock absorbers, are located in between each of the spine’s vertebrae. Each disc contains a tire-like outer band (annulus fibrosus) that surrounds a gel-like substance (nucleus pulposus).
The symptoms of a cervical herniated disc may include:
If the disc’s outer band cracks or breaks open, the gel inside the disc can leak out causing a herniated disc. The disc material may place pressure on nearby nerve roots or the spinal cord. Additionally nuclear material releases chemical irritants causing nerve inflammation and pain.
Sudden stress such as from an accident can cause a cervical disc to herniate. Sometimes, a disc herniation develops gradually over weeks or months.
Risk factors that can contribute to disc herniation include:
Video:Herniated Disc (Cervical)
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Cervical disc herniation requires an expert diagnosis, which will include these steps.
Most cases of cervical disc herniation do not require surgery.
Physical therapists may also provide education in healthy posture and proper body mechanics.
If non-surgical treatment is ineffective, surgery may be recommended.
An anterior (from the front) cervical discectomy is the most common surgical procedure to treat a damaged cervical disc. The goal of this procedure is to relieve nerve root or spinal cord pressure by removing part of, or the entire disc.
If the entire disc is removed, the surgeon may perform spinal instrumentation and fusion. Instrumentation and fusion joins two or more vertebrae. Instrumentation (i.e,. screws, plates) is combined with fusion (bone graft) to stabilize the spine. Bone graft fills the void left when the disc is removed. There are different types of bone grafts, including bone graft from your body. The surgeon will discuss the best type for you.
Many neck surgical procedures can be performed using minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive surgery uses smaller incisions and specialized instruments. Minimally invasive procedures benefit you in many ways such as smaller incisions, less time hospitalized, and a faster recovery.
Most patients begin to get out of bed the same day surgery is performed. Activity is gradually increased and patients are typically discharged home within 1 or 2 days after their procedure, depending on the type and extent of the surgery. As with most surgeries, expect some pain after the procedure. Pain medications help keep you comfortable.
At home, continued rest is advised. Patients will be given instructions how to safely and gradually increase activity. Pain medication may be needed for a while. However, pain and discomfort should begin to reduce within a week or two after surgery. Information about other ways to reduce pain and increase flexibility may be provided, along with instructions about when the patient may resume everyday activities and, if appropriate, return to work.
During recovery, patients who make efforts to comply with rehabilitation and learn from physical therapists can develop spine healthy habits for a lifetime that may minimize the risk of future problems.
Patient Guides to Spine Conditions