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Guide to Cervical Herniated Disc

What is a Cervical Herniated Disc?

A Cervical herniated disc is the disruption of the annular fibres and the displacement of the nuclear material which ruptures through the outer wall of the disc.

The cervical spine (neck) has 6 discs that lie in between the spinal column of the neck. The discs themselves are made up of a soft inner gel material that is called the nucleus polposus that is enclosed in layers of thick outer fibrous bands called the annulus fibrosus.

The main function of the discs is to provide cushioning between the vertebrae’s (bones) and allow a great deal of motion in all directions.

What causes a Cervical Herniated Disc?

There are various reasons why you may get a cervical disc herniation. They are rarely as a result of a singular traumatic event but rather as a result of disc degeneration over time.

As the discs age, they go through repetitive mechanical stressors such as compressive loading, shearing forces and vibrations which weaken the outer annular fibres over time.

As the discs age over time, they also lose their hydration and becomes less flexible and durable. This causes tears and cracks to be more likely to develop.

How is a Cervical Herniated Disc diagnosed?

Our practitioners will begin by taking a complete medical history from the patient which includes any previous conditions, traumatic injuries or previous history of neck pain. They will also take a detailed history of the current symptoms and its presentations which will help them in the diagnosis of their complaint.

Following a detailed history taking our practitioners will then perform a physical examination which includes palpation of the neck looking for possible swellings, range of motion assessment and any pain. They will also conduct specific orthopaedic testing that may help in their diagnosis of a disc herniation. They will also carry out appropriate neurological testing to ensure there are no signs of any neurological deficits in the arms.

If the practitioners suspect a disc herniation, they may refer you for scans that would confirm their diagnosis. MRI is the preferred imaging modality for disc herniation’s as it allows for a high-quality view of the soft tissues to be taken.

How is a Cervical Herniated Disc treated?

Cervical disc herniation can be managed with the help of conservative treatments. The goal of conservative treatments is to reduce pain and inflammation, reduce mechanical compression and improve functional stability of the neck.

Patients with symptoms of radiculopathy into the arms have been shown to have results in regression of herniated material with the reduction in local and radicular complaints.

Some of the common treatments provided are cervical spine traction which has been shown to help decompress, rehydrate and promote recovery of the discs. Stretching and myofascial release techniques are used on the surrounding musculatures of the neck to help improve range of motion and reduce pain. Practitioners may also advise strengthening exercises and stretching to help with improving neck stabilization.

References

Manchikanti L, Abdi S, Atluri S, Benyamin RM, Boswell MV, Buenaventura RM, Bryce DA, Burks PA, Caraway DL, Calodney AK, Cash KA. An update of comprehensive evidence-based guidelines for interventional techniques in chronic spinal pain. Part II: guidance and recommendations. Pain physician. 2013 Apr;16(2 Suppl): S49-283. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/23615883

31. Bush K, Hillier S. Outcome of cervical radiculopathy treated with periradicular/epidural corticosteroid injections: a prospective study with independent clinical review. Eur Spine J. 1996;5(5):319-25.

33. BenEliyahu DJ. Magnetic resonance imaging and clinical follow-up: study of 27 patients receiving chiropractic care for cervical and lumbar disc herniations. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1996;19(9):597–606.

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