The intervertebral discs in the cervical spine are tough cushions between the vertebral bones. Each disc acts as a shock absorber between the bones and allows for motion in the neck. The disc is composed of a strong outer covering called the annulus and a soft inner nucleus.
A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of the disc squeezes out through the outer layer. This leakage causes inflammation that irritates nearby spinal nerves. Symptoms include:
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in one arm or hand
- Neck pain and muscle spasm
- Headache, especially in the back of the head
- Burning pain in the neck and shoulder that may shoot down the arm called radiculopathy
Many people who experience herniated discs will recover with time. If the pain begins to impact your daily life, it may be time to seek care. Initial therapies can include:
- Medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
- Home care measures, including rest, hot or cold packs, and stretching and mobilization exercises
If symptoms continue, our providers at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group Spine Center in The Woodlands may recommend physical therapy or an epidural steroid injection which can temporarily reduce the symptoms and allow the body to heal.
The final option would be to consider surgical intervention, such as an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, artificial cervical disc, or posterior cervical foraminotomy to decompress the nerve.