Most Cervical Disc Herniations occur as a result of sudden stress. This occurs during movements resulting in sudden flexion, extension, or twisting of the neck, such as during a fall or auto accident.

Most Cervical Disc Herniations occur as a result of sudden stress. This occurs during movements resulting in sudden flexion, extension, or twisting of the neck pain, such as during a fall or auto accident. Sometimes herniations occur gradually, over weeks or months. However, there are risk factors that can contribute to the chances of a disc herniation, including:

  • Aging. As we get older, discs gradually dry out, affecting their strength and resiliency.
  • History of major or minor trauma to the cervical spine.
  • Lifestyle choices. Lack of regular exercise, not eating a well-balanced diet, and tobacco use substantially contribute to poor disc health.
  • Poor posture, incorrect and/or repetitive lifting or twisting can place additional stress on the cervical spine

Symptoms

The symptoms of a cervical herniated disc might include:

  • Dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades, which can intensify in certain positions or after certain movements.
  • Pain that radiates down the arm to the hand or fingers (this is called radiculopathy).
  • Numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm.

Non – Operative Treatment

The good news is that most cases of cervical disc herniation do not require surgery! There are a number of non-surgical treatments that can help relieve symptoms. These include the following:

  • Pain medications such as anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and pain, muscle relaxants to calm spasm, and narcotic painkillers to alleviate acute pain.
  • Heat/cold therapy, especially during the first 24-48 hours.
  • Physical therapy exercises such as gentle massage, stretching, and neck bracing or traction to decrease pain and increase flexibility.

In conjunction with these treatments, the medical staff will educate patients about risk factors to avoid, healthy posture, good body mechanics, and suitable exercises. Quality education can lead to a healthier spine in the long run.

Surgical Treatment

If non-operative measures do not work, surgery may be recommended. An anterior (from the front) cervical discectomy is the most common surgical procedure to treat damaged cervical discs. The goal of this procedure is to relieve pressure on the nerve roots or on the spinal cord by removing all or part of the damaged disc.

During the surgery, the soft tissues of the neck are separated to expose the offending disc. The disc is removed, to decompress the spinal cord or nerve roots. If necessary, the space left by the removed disc will be filled with a bone graft a small piece of bone usually taken from the patients hip. The bone graft is used to join or fuse the vertebrae together. This is called a fusion. In some cases, some instrumentation (such as plates or screws) may be used to help promote fusion and to add stability to the spine.During posterior cervical surgery, a portion of the bone covering the nerve may also need to be removed. This procedure is called a laminotomy.

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