Symptoms of and Treatment for Cervical Disc Herniation
One of the most common neck conditions treated by physical therapists and other spine specialists is a cervical disc herniation. Initial signs and symptoms of a cervical disc herniation could begin at any age but is most commonly seen in the age range of 30-50. A cervical disc herniation is often caused by a traumatic injury, but if the disc has already begun to degenerate through age or wear and tear, an action as simple as a violent sneeze could cause it. The onset of the symptoms is usually immediate following the injury.
What Are the Symptoms of Cervical Disc Herniation?
Not all cervical disc herniations will cause symptoms. In the majority of cases, symptoms of cervical disc herniation will only show if the disc material presses on or irritates a cervical nerve. Arm pain will radiate along the nerve pathway and down the arm and into the fingertips. Along with pain, the patient may feel numbness and a tingling sensation with possible muscle weakness if the condition is left untreated for too long.
Cervical disc herniations occur mainly at either the C5 – C6 level or the C6 – C7 level of the spine. In the spinal classification system C stands for cervical (the portion of the spine that belongs to your neck). After those 2 levels, the next common place for a disc to herniate in the neck is the C4 – C5 level. Spine specialists will rarely ever see a cervical disc herniation at the C7 – T1 level (T stands for Thoracic).
Listed below are the symptoms of cervical disc herniation by level.
C5 nerve root (C4 – C5 level)
- Weakness in the upper arm deltoid muscle
- Very rare numbness or tingling sensation
- Shoulder pain
C6 nerve root (C5 – C6 level)
- Weakness in the biceps and wrist extensor muscles
- Numbness, tingling, and pain that radiates to the thumb side of the hand
C7 nerve root (C6 – C7 level)
- Weakness in the triceps and finger extensor muscles
- Numbness, tingling, and pain that radiates to the middle finger from the triceps
C8 nerve root (C7 – T1 level)
- Weakened handgrip
- Numbness, tingling, and pain that radiates down the arm and to the outside of the hand
Treatment for Cervical Disc Herniation
In the majority of cases involving cervical disc herniation, treatment of the arm pain is accomplished through conservative methods and not with surgery. Surgery for cervical disc herniation should only be considered after all conservative methods have been exhausted.
When treating a cervical disc herniation, changing your lifestyle is one of the most important factors that could affect the treatment outcome. Although your doctor may cure your pain, you also want to make sure you don’t repeat the activity that caused the herniation in the first place. Arm pain is generally the first symptom that will improve with cervical disc herniation treatment. The numbness and tingling that you feel before the treatment will resolve as the nerve root heals; they may take longer to resolve than arm pain.
For more specific treatments for cervical disc herniation, you are recommended to consult with a medical professional and obtain an accurate diagnosis. Although there is a wealth of information on the Internet, only your doctor who has access to your medical history can make proper treatment recommendations.