Cervical Disc Prolapse

Cervical disc prolapse

Cervical disc prolapse, also known as aherniated or slipped disc, is a condition that occurs when one of the discs between the cervical vertebrae in the neck slips out of its normal position and protrudes or bulges into the spinal canal. Spinal discs act as cushions between the vertebrae of the spine, enabling flexibility and movement of the spine.

This can cause pressure on the spinal cordor nerves, resulting in pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. The severity of the symptoms varies depending on the prolapse's size and location, ranging from moderate to severe. 

What causes the cervical disc to prolapse?

Several risk factors are associated with cervical disc prolapse, including:

  1. Age-related wear and tear: As we age, the discs in our spine lose moisture and become less flexible, making them more prone to tearing or bulging.
  2. Trauma: A sudden impact or injury to the neck can cause a disc to slip out of place.
  3. Repetitive strain: Activities involving repetitive neck movements, such as lifting heavy objects or bending forward for long periods, can stress the discs and increase the risk of prolapse.
  4. Genetics: Some people may be more prone to disc problems due to inherited factors.

Other risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing a cervical disc prolapse include smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy weight, practising good posture, and engaging in regular exercise to help prevent disc problems are important. 

How does Cervical disc prolapse present?

Cervical disc prolapse can manifest differently depending on the severity, location, and size of the prolapse. Nevertheless, typical symptoms of cervical disc prolapse include the following.

  • Pain: Pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands is a common symptom of cervical disc prolapse. The pain may be sharp or dull and may worsen with movement or certain activities.
  • Numbness or tingling: Tingling sensations or numbness in the neck, shoulders, arms, or hands can also signify cervical disc prolapse. This is often caused by pressure on the nerves in the affected area.
  • Weakness: Weakness in the arms or hands is another common symptom of cervical disc prolapse. This is often caused by pressure on the nerves that control the muscles in the affected area.
  • Stiffness: Stiffness in the neck or difficulty moving the neck can also be a sign of cervical disc prolapse.

In severe cases, cervical disc prolapse can cause spinal cord compression, resulting in symptoms such as difficulty walking, loss of bladder or bowel control, or loss of sensation in the legs(cervical Spondylotic myelopathy). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, seeking medical attention immediately is important.

Diagnosis of Cervical disc prolapse

Diagnosing cervical disc prolapse typically involves a combination of a patient's medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests.

During the physical examination, the doctor will perform a physical examination to assess the range of motion, sensations, reflexes, and strength of the limbs.

Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans can help visualize the spine and identify any spinal canal narrowing orherniated discs that may be causing pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.

In some cases, further tests such aselectromyography (EMG) or nerve conduction studies (NCS) may be required toe valuate nerve function and determine the extent of nerve damage or rule outother causes like peripheral neuropathy.

Treatment of Cervical disc prolapse.

The treatment of cervical disc prolapse depends on the severity of the symptoms and the extent of nerve involvement.

Most cervical disc prolapse responds to non-operative treatment.

Conservative treatments for cervical disc prolapse may include:

  • Pain relief: Over-the-counterpain medications, such as acetaminophen or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs(NSAIDs), may be prescribed to alleviate pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches can help relieve pain and improve flexibility and range of motion.
  • Steroid injections: Corticosteroid injections may be administered directly into the affected areato reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
  • Alternative therapies: Cervical manipulation is not indicated.

Surgery may be recommended if conservative treatments fail to relieve symptoms or present with neurological deficits. The most common surgical procedure for cervical disc prolapses is a discectomy, in which the prolapsed disc is removed to relieve pressure on the nerves. This maybe accompanied by fusion or disc replacement if done from the front.

Learn more about managing and understanding back-related conditions:

The top 5 causes of lower back pain and how to prevent them
Living with chronic back pain: coping strategies and support

Explore procedures for Cervical Disc Prolapse:

Cervical Discectomy: A surgical procedure to remove the damaged disc to relieve spinal cord or nerve root pressure.
Cervical Laminectomy: Surgery to remove the back part of the vertebra, relieving pressure on the spinal cord.

More related spinal conditions:

Lumbar Disc Prolapse: Learn about the displacement of lumbar discs and its effects on spinal health.
Cervical Disc Myelopathy: The compression of the spinal cord in the cervical spine and its neurological implications.
Arm Pain (Cervical Radiculopathy): Understand the nerve compression in the cervical spine causing pain and numbness in the arms.