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Cervical Disc Herniation

Stop the Pain of a Cervical Disc Herniation

Herniated discs can occur in the cervical or neck area. Referred to as a cervical disc herniation, these herniations can be very painful. At Key Clinics, board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Joel D. Siegal offers treatment to stop the pain and other symptoms.

What Is a Cervical Disc Herniation?

In between the vertebrae of the cervical spine are discs, which consist of a hard exterior and soft interior. The gel-like substance on the inside of the disc works like a shock absorber on a car. When someone is involved in activities, like jumping, the strain on the cervical spine is cushioned by the discs between the bones. However, when one or more discs rupture, the patient has a cervical disc herniation.

Symptoms of a Cervical Disc Herniation

Once a disc herniates, there is less cushioning capacity and the disc extrusion can squish the nerves coming out of the spinal cord to the arms.  While a small number of people have no or only slight symptoms, most experience extreme pain that makes doing even minimal tasks difficult. Most patients we treat at Key Clinics for cervical disc herniation have a various of symptoms, including:

  • Pain – Usually, the pain is sharp and radiates from the neck into the shoulders. It then travels into the arms and hands. 
  • Stiffness – Without the disc providing normal cushioning, stiffness and muscle spasms can occur.
  • Sensations –  a herniation can cause pressure on nerves or nerve roots. For that reason, it is common for patients to experience tingling and numbness in the arms and hands.
  • Muscle Weakness – Weakened arm strength is commonly seen with cervical disc herniations. In severe cases, something as simple as holding a cup of coffee might prove difficult.  Patients may find it hard to grip objects causing frequent dropping of things. Some people lose fine motor skills in their hands.
  • Headaches – Headaches can develop from nerve root irritation in the cervical spine as well as from cervical spinal arthritis.  These headaches cause not only throbbing pain but also light and noise sensitivity, nausea, and tenderness at the base of the skull.

Causes of a Cervical Disc Herniation

Wear and tear associated with the aging process is the most common cause of a cervical disc herniation. Over time, the body goes through a degenerative process, causing discs to wear down. However, it is possible to herniate a disc in the neck region from a significant fall, car accident, or some other type of trauma.

Diagnosis and Treatment of a Cervical Disc Herniation

If you feel as if your cervical disc herniation requires serious medical attention, please contact our team at Key Clinics. Dr. Siegal begins with a consultation followed by a physical examination and a series of tests, including X-rays and an MRI scan. Then, he can determine the exact disc involved, as well as the severity of the herniation.

As for treatment, Dr. Siegal can make several recommendations based on the patient’s needs.  About 90% of patients with a cervical disc herniation heal within 6-8 weeks. Treatment initially involves noninvasive procedures or blocks for pain control and management. If the patient does not respond favorably, he can perform a surgical procedure known as a discectomy.

With this minimally disruptive treatment, Dr. Siegal can either fix the problem from the front of the neck or from the back of the neck.  With either approach from the front or back of the neck, the disc herniation is removed with a microscope called a microdiscectomy. This minimizes the risk/exposure to the spine, nerves and spinal cord and relieves pressure from the nerves or nerve roots.  Sometimes hardware is inserted into the spinal column to provide stabilization.

Healing After Cervical Disc Herniation Surgery

Following a discectomy, patients must rest. Dr. Siegal also prescribes pain medication as needed for about a week. For a period depending on the procedure performed, patients should avoid activities that could irritate/stress the cervical spine. While there is a recovery time of several months, this surgery provides incredible results. To learn more about cervical disc herniation surgery, please call us or schedule an appointment online today.