If you are experiencing pain in your neck, shoulders, or arms you may have a cervical disc herniation. This condition originates in your upper spine and is often referred to colloquially as a “pinched nerve,” “ruptured disc,” or “herniated disc.”
The Cervical Spine
The uppermost region of your spine is called the cervical spine, supporting the weight and movement of your head. The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae – C1 through C7 from top to bottom. These are separated by intervertebral discs, which are made up of an annulus (fibrous tissue) with a soft nucleus at the center. The annulus and nucleus of each disc work together to provide shock absorption and pressure distribution evenly, as well as to separate the vertebrae.
If the annulus of one disc is torn, the nucleus can sometimes be separated from the center of the disc. If this has happened to you, the disc will lose much of its ability to separate vertebrae, leading to compression and irritation of the spinal nerves. The numbness or pain you may be feeling in your neck or arms is related to this compression and irritation.
Causes of Cervical Disc Herniation
A cervical herniated disc is generally caused by wear and tear and commonly become problematic in the 30’s and 40’s. Discs can also suddenly tear after trauma such as heavy lifting or injury, including a sudden intense twist. These are often diagnosed after car accidents and work related injuries.
Symptoms of Cervical Disc Herniation
Cervical disc herniation could be the cause of the pain in your neck, shoulders, and/or arms. If you are suffering from cervical disc herniation, you may be experiencing some of the following symptoms:
- Pain, discomfort, or a burning sensation starting from the neck region that travels down one or both arms
- Pain when you turn your head
- Pain in your shoulder region
- Difficulty sleeping due to neck or arm pain
- Numbness or tingling in one or both arms
- Weakness or tingling in one or both arms
- Limited mobility in your neck or arms, or difficulty using your arms or hands
Diagnosing Cervical Disc Herniation
Your diagnosis will consist of a thorough physical exam from Dr. Rovner in order to determine the exact cause of your symptoms. At Progressive Spine & Orthopaedics, Dr. Rovner will also be sure to take a close look at your medical history, including test results from any previous doctor visits.
Dr. Rovner will also order any tests that might be necessary, including x-rays or MRI scans. When he has determined your diagnosis, you will be provided with the most current and up-to-date information about your condition, as well as the risks and benefits of each treatment option available to you. Dr. Rovner will work with you to decide on the best treatment option for your unique situation.
Treating Cervical Disc Herniation
If you are suffering from cervical disc herniation, Dr. Rovner will recommend modifying your activity levels and managing the pain with medication. Physical therapy may also be an excellent treatment option. Only as a last resort will Dr. Rovner recommend surgery, but if this is the case, you may undergo an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or a cervical disc replacement.