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Flashcards in Cervical Disc Herniations Deck (12):

What are cervical disc herniations

Cervical disc herniations are ruptures that can lead to neck pain and symptoms that radiate down the arms to the fingers.


What are the discs?

The discs are the soft material that lies between the bones of the neck.


What does this disc material do?

This material acts as a cushion or shock absorber that decreases the stress between the bones and allows for neck movement.


What can happen to these discs?

Unfortunately, these discs can wear out or become arthritic and then weaken.


What happens when these discs weaken to a certain point?

When they weaken to a certain point, they can tear or rupture which allows for the disc material to herniate or bulge outward. They can bulge to the point where they push on the nerves and the spinal cord, which can lead to nerve problems.


What do the nerves in the neck control?

The nerves in the neck control strength, sensation, reflexes, and pain fibers that typically run down the arm in certain areas depending on which nerve is pinched.


What symptoms do patients with herniated discs experience?

Most patients with disc herniations will experience symptoms of some neck pain, but the most severe problem is the pinched nerve.


What are the affects of a herniated disc?

The pain, weakness and numbness can range from mild to severe, but it can lead to nerve damage when the pressure is severe and prolonged.


How does a physician diagnose a herniated disc?

Your physician will perform an extensive neurological exam to detect any neurological signs and symptoms of nerve damage. In severe cases, the disc can not only pinch the nerves which exit the spine, but also the spinal cord itself which is a serious and potentially catastrophic situation. However, most patients do not need urgent surgery and can try numerous non-operative treatments to attempt to resolve the pain.


Once your physician has determined that surgery is not needed emergently, there are many conservative treatments that can be instituted. These conservative therapies include:

rest, anti-inflammatory medications, cervical collar, pain medications, muscle relaxants, and physical therapy exercises. If these options fail, an epidural or steroid injection can be attempted and may provide significant relief.


If all of the conservative options fail, there are several surgical options that can be considered that have high success rates and can reliably alleviate the symptoms.

These can include removal of the disc herniation and decompression of the nerve roots and spinal cord. Often, a cervical fusion can also be performed to stabilize the spine, provide a strong structural environment, and prevent recurrence of the symptoms.


How common is surgery to treat this condition?

Most patients with this condition resolve their symptoms with a carefully implemented treatment program without the need for surgery. The important points are to make sure that you see your physician to determine whether the situation is amenable to conservative care.