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These discs help to cushion the vertebrae and absorb shock caused by movement of the spine. They also make the neck more flexible. Occasionally, the outer layer of a disc in the neck may become damaged. When this occurs, the inner jelly-like material can leak out of the disc, putting pressure on the spinal nerves. This is called a cervical disc herniation.
(Includes ACDs and corpectomies)
Discs normally have a high fluid content.
With age, however, the discs can lose some of this fluid. This causes them to become less flexible and increases the risk of small tears that can lead to herniation. The jelly-like center of the disc becomes more like dried-out crab meat or cartilage. Age can also cause discs to lose some of their height. This can interfere with the nerves as they leave the spinal cord, leading to neck pain and other symptoms. A related issue occur when a disc does not actually tear but the inner disc material bulges outward. This can cause symptoms similar to a disc herniation.
Cervical disc herniation becomes more common with age and is frequently experienced by people who smoke cigarettes. Cervical disc herniation can also result from neck trauma due to a sports injury or other incident. People with poor posture and who do not exercise regularly may also be at higher risk for a herniated cervical disc.
Herniated cervical discs frequently cause pain in the neck, shoulders, and arms. They may also cause weakness, tingling, or numbness in the arms or hands, usually on one side of the body. The pain may become worse after sitting or standing for long periods or when coughing or sneezing. A more serious situation occurs when the herniated disc impinger on the spinal cord
This can lead to weakness in the legs, a loss of balance, and bowel or bladder problems (referred to as “myelopathy”). If these symptoms develop, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
A personal health history and thorough clinical exam are important factors in making a herniated cervical disc diagnosis. The exam usually includes X-rays and imaging studies such as MRIs. A CT scan and myelogram study may also be needed in cases where the diagnosis is in question.
The majority of cervical disc herniations improve with physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. Some people also benefit from epidural steroid injections into the spine to reduce inflammation and nerve irritation.
Surgery becomes an option when more conservative measures are unsuccessful. The most common surgery performed for a herniated cervical disc is an anterior cervical discectomy, and fusion during which the surgeon enters the spine from the front and removes all or a portion of the affected disc. After the entire disc is removed, a bone graft and a metal plate may be inserted as a replacement.
Most people experience some pain immediately following the surgery, but the pain usually subsides quickly during recovery. Other options include posterior surgery to decompress the nerve root or artificial disc replacement surgery.
Vanessa had years of neck pain leaving her unable to even do her daily work. But with Dr. Wascher’s quick and timely intervention that included multiple viewings of MRIs, muscle and nerve tests, followed by a 3-Level Anterior Cervical Fusion, she is now happy without any neck issues. “I can happily say that by following the recommendations of Dr. Wascher, I am now pain-free,” says Vanessa as she talks about how great Dr. Wascher and his team were to work with.
Chad was experiencing numbness in the fingers of his right hand, which spread to the middle of the back and spread to other parts of the body. Dr. Wascher and his team offered timely help, from a medical opinion, to actually performing the surgical procedure. From Dr. Wascher who, as Chad says, “held my hand the whole time, and answered all my questions promptly” to David Bond (Nurse practitioner) who helped Chad through the recovery process, the whole team quickly and comfortably turned things around from not being able to sleep to leading a much more comfortable life.