Cervical disc herniation

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What is cervical disc herniation?

Cervical disc herniation is a condition in which a disc in the neck can rupture and put pressure on the adjacent nerves. Cervical discs are the cushions between the vertebrae in the upper back and neck. If they become damaged by degeneration or injury, they may bulge abnormally or rupture causing cartilage on the inside to leak. Common terms for this condition include herniated disc, slipped disc or ruptured disc. If the affected disc puts pressure on the nerves or the spinal cord, it can cause severe and unrelenting pain radiating from the neck down the arm and into the fingertips.

How does cervical disc herniation occur?

Cervical disc herniation is usually caused by wear and tear or injury. As we age, our discs gradually lose the fluid that helps them maintain flexibility. Discs become stiffer and shorter, causing the vertebrae to move closer together. A herniated disc also may result from injuries to the spine, which can cause tiny tears or cracks in the disc’s outer layer. The jellylike material inside is forced out, which causes the disc to bulge, break open or break into fragments. These fragments can put pressure on the nerves and spinal cord and cause pain, numbness or weakness.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of cervical disc herniation may include:

How is cervical disc herniation diagnosed?

In addition to a complete physical exam and patient history, your doctor can use specific tests, including X-ray, MRI and CT scan,to diagnose a herniated disc. Sometimes, a test called an electromyogram is used to check electrical activity along the nerves and pinpoint the area of damage.

What is the treatment?

Many patients will improve with non-surgical treatment. This may include rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroids, epidural injections or physical therapy. If these conservative treatments don’t work, or if symptoms get worse,surgery may be necessary. The goals of surgery are to remove the damaged disc to take pressure off of the nerves, maintain spine stability and correct spine alignment.

There are several appropriate and successful surgical options, including:

Your surgeon will discuss what surgical options would be best for you depending on your individual case and condition. Not everyone is a candidate for disc replacement surgery. A surgeon who is trained in both spine fusion techniques and disc replacement technology is the best person to determine the most appropriate surgical option. A consultation with the proper surgeon is crucial in making that determination.