Diagnosing and Treating Herniated Discs In The Neck

If pain in the neck is being a real “pain in the neck,” you’re not alone. Millions of Americans deal with acute or chronic neck pain on a daily basis. Between physical activity, poor posture and natural degeneration as we get older, it should come as no surprise that cervical spinal discs can become damaged over the years.

If the pressure on the disc becomes too much, it can herniate, causing localized and shooting pain. Below, we take a closer look at how cervical herniated discs are diagnosed and treated.

Diagnosing A Cervical Herniated Disc

We’re beginning to see more herniated discs in the neck at our clinic, and it seems likely that “tech neck” is playing a role in its onset. Now more than ever, people are craning their heads forward to look at their phone or to type at their workstation. When your body isn’t in a natural alignment, stress tends to be channeled to two locations – your lumbar and cervical spine. Over time, poor posture can lead to bulging and herniated discs.

If you’re dealing with pain in the neck, consider setting up an appointment with a specialist. Herniated discs can happen acutely as a result of physical trauma, or they can slowly develop over time as the disc health gradually wears down. Herniated discs can also be difficult to self-diagnose because symptoms tend to vary from patient to patient. Some patients have intense neck pain, pain that radiates down the arm or leg, stiffness, range of motion limitations or sharp pains when turning the head in one direction. Others have little or no symptoms at all, but the herniated disc can still be a threat to other soft tissues in the neck.

During the diagnostic stage, a doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and review your medical history. They will also ask you to perform certain movements to see if symptoms persist or alleviate. Finally, they’ll likely confirm your diagnosis with imaging tests like an X-Ray, MRI or CT scan. These imaging tests can not only identify that a herniation exists, but it can also tell doctors exactly which disc in the cervical spine is affected.

Treating Cervical Herniated Discs

Treatment depends on a number of different factors, including the location of the herniation, symptom prevalence, and the extent of the damage. For those with minor or mild symptoms, watchful waiting and posture improvements may be all that is necessary to keep symptoms under control.

For those with more intense symptoms, active treatment options are recommended. Pain medications and steroid injections can help control discomfort, but it won’t treat the underlying issue. More direct treatment in the form of physical therapy, targeted strengthening exercises and simple stretching techniques have all proven beneficial. Sticking with a therapy plan and minding your posture on a daily basis can help you alleviate pain caused by a cervical herniated disc.

If conservative treatment fails, a more hands-on approach may be necessary. Surgery can be used to remove part of the offending disc and strengthen the stability of the vertebral column. Any operation will also be paired with post-op rehabilitative therapy, which involves many of the conservative treatments we spoke of above. Dr. Chang has performed countless discectomy and fusion procedures to address cervical herniated discs, and he’d be more than happy to walk you through the process and get you back to a pain free way of living. For more information or for help with your neck pain, reach out to his clinic today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Consider These Benefits of Spinal Fusion

Every year, thousands of Americans turn to spinal fusion surgery to relieve their chronic spine-related pain. If you’ve been wondering if spinal fusion could be a good choice for your pain, here are five benefits you should know about.

Can a Herniated Disc Heal on Its Own?

Herniated discs are fairly common, but does that mean it’s OK to let them heal on their own? Here’s when — and why — you should seek medical care for a herniated disc.

The Importance of Rehab After Spinal Surgery

Spinal surgery offers long-term relief for many types of chronic pain, and post-surgical rehab plays a critical role in locking in those results. If spinal surgery is in your future, here’s how a custom rehab plan may benefit you.

Signs That You May Have a Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries affect thousands of people every year, but the signs aren’t always obvious. Learning to recognize the subtler symptoms can ensure you get vital medical care as quickly as possible. Here’s what to look for.

Why Would Someone Need a Revision Spine Surgery?

Spine surgery helps many people relieve chronic pain and other symptoms. But sometimes pain can continue or come back after surgery. In those instances, revision surgery may help. Here’s when we typically recommend revision surgery.