When an abnormality exists somewhere in the cervical spine, symptoms may localize to the neck. Often, patients with a disc injury or subluxation in this spinal segment experience symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness in the arms and hands. Such conditions are not uncommon simply because the cervical spine is under consistent stress as it supports the weight of the head. This stress is absorbed by the discs that sit in between the vertebrae of the spine. Over time, these gel-like structures can become excessively dry and rigid, eventually rupturing and releasing disc material into the spine.
Ruptured Discs as a Cause of Neck Pain
It isn’t the ruptured disc itself that feels painful. What happens when a disc rupture is that compression occurs on the nerve or nerves nearby. The nerves that are compressed by decreased space in the spinal column are related to the symptoms that may occur. These include:
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, or hands and fingers.
- Usually, only one side of the body is affected. However, there have been instances of bilateral, or two-sided symptoms.
- Sensations of pain, numbness, or tingling may get better or worse based on upper body positioning.
- In some instances, pain or weakness may also be felt in the lower body.
If neck and associated pain last more than a few days, there is the good reason to see your doctor. Diagnostic imaging may be ordered to observe the neck in detail. X-rays or CT imaging enable your doctor to see the spinal structure, including the position of the vertebrae and the distance between them. Specialized imaging may be conducted to obtain an in-depth look at the disc in question.
Having a ruptured cervical disc doesn’t immediately mean that you need surgery. Usually, conservative, non-surgical treatments are performed first. The objective of early care is to reduce inflammation and alleviate pressure on nerve roots. When this is accomplished, symptoms should diminish. However, it is unlikely that the origin of the problem, the degenerated disc, will repair on its own.
If symptoms do not improve with conservative therapy, surgery may be discussed. The advantage of surgery such as Cervical disc arthroplasty is that it does not simply treat symptoms, it resolves the problem that has caused them.