A herniated disc which is also known as a slipped disc is a common cause of neck and upper body pain. It occurs when the disc bulges or leaks out which puts pressure on the spinal cord or irritates the nerves. It can happen as a result of an injury or trauma to the neck. The discs in the cervical spine are not very big, therefore there is not a lot of space for the nerves. As a result, a slight cervical disc herniation can irritate the nerve and cause significant pain.
Some of the common causes of a cervical herniated disc:
Poor posture, incorrect lifting or twisting combined with the effects of daily wear and tear, can place additional stress on the cervical spine. A slipped disc may develop instantly as a result of injury or gradually from bad posture.
There are 4 types of cervical disc problems:
- Disc degeneration: occurs over time as a person gets older when the discs can become worn from wear and tear and as a result degenerate causing the disc space between the vertebrae to collapse and the nerve roots to become pinched without herniation.
- Prolapse: Is also known as bulging disc and occurs when the disc protrudes into the spinal canal and irritates the spinal nerves.
- Extrusion: Occurs when the disc gel leaks out of the disc but mostly remains within the disc.
- Sequestered disc: Occurs when the disc gel leaks out of the disc and moves outside into the spinal canal.
The most common symptoms are pain and stiffness in your neck. When one of these conditions irritates the spinal cord nerves it can lead to uncomfortable pain and numbness which travels from your neck to your shoulder, arm and hand. The pain in the arm is usually described as the most severe.
How to identify your neck problem
The best way to identify a cervical herniated disc is by undergoing an MRI scan. This can show any nerve root pinching caused by a herniated cervical disc. A CT scan may be also used. However, the procedure is not the same because a CT scan requires a myelogram injection into the spinal canal as part of the procedure.
Pain caused specifically by a cervical herniated disc is caused by a combination of 2 processes:
- Pinching of the nerve root
- Inflammation associated with the disc itself
Typically recommended treatments
A Dr. will usually recommend painkillers to help reduce the pain, however, it is suggested to only use these medicines on a short-term basis. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be used to remove inflammation can help reduce pain.
There are a number of non-surgical treatments that can help to alleviate pain. Common recommendations include physical therapy and exercise. Heat and ice treatments can have some beneficial effects also.
Can a cervical herniated disc be prevented?
Aging is inevitable, but change to your lifestyle can help prevent cervical disc problems. Practicing good posture and body mechanics are good preventive measures. Another very effective solution which will also help you to get a better night’s sleep is the use of an ergonomic pillow.
Related reading: https://freeyourspine.info/best-cervical-pillows-for-neck-pain/
An ergonomic pillow can be used to help reduce neck pain and also improve sleep. This pillow is recommended by many chiropractors to support your neck and to ease pain and tension while sleeping. There are lots of pillow choices and selection will largely depend on the type of sleeper you are.