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How To Know if You Have a Herniated Cervical Disc

Your cervical spine is the seven vertebral bones in your neck. Each vertebra is cushioned with a spinal disc, which absorbs shock as you move through life.

Healthy discs are rubbery and supportive, but damaged or dehydrated discs can herniate. Herniated cervical discs (also called slipped discs or ruptured discs) are a leading cause of neck pain and stiffness.

Your risk of suffering a herniated disc increases as you get older, but you don’t have to live with the pain and restricted mobility. George Kakoulides, MD is a board-certified neurosurgeon specializing in diagnosing and treating back pain, including herniated cervical discs. 

How spinal discs work

Spinal discs are round, flat cushions between your vertebral bones. Your spine has 23 discs in total, and six in your neck.

Spinal discs help hold vertebrae together, and they provide essential shock absorption between bones when you move your head. Each spinal disc has a slick, hard covering called the annulus fibrosus. The annulus fibrosus protects the gel-like interior of your spinal discs, which is called the nucleus pulposus.

The spinal discs in your neck are thinner and more delicate than the discs in your lower back, but all discs are susceptible to injury. A herniated disc is one of the most common causes of back pain, and it happens when the nucleus pulposus leaks out from the inside.

What causes herniated discs

Spinal discs naturally deteriorate with age. They dehydrated over time, making them stiffer and prone to damage. In mobile parts of your back, like your lumbar spine and cervical spine, disc degeneration often causes back pain.

Damaged discs are more likely to slip, bulge, or break. When the nucleus pulposus escapes from the inside of a disc, a herniated disc develops. Herniated discs may press against nerves in the spine, and this pressure can be painful.

Sometimes, a single event may cause a herniated disc. Acute injury or sudden strain could stress a spinal disc in your neck and trigger herniation, but the most common cause is simply getting older.

Signs of a herniated cervical disc

The most common symptom of herniated discs is pain. But the intensity and location of the pain can vary, depending on the severity of your herniated disc.

If you have a herniated cervical disc, you might notice symptoms like:

Cervical radiculopathy is the medical term for a pinched nerve in your neck, and common signs include tingling and numbness. If the herniated disc presses on your spinal cord, it can cause cervical myelopathy, which can cause symptoms like difficulty writing or walking.

If you’re living with neck pain, make an appointment with a spine specialist. Dr. Kakoulides and our team are experts in treating herniated discs, and we can recommend a treatment strategy to address your symptoms.

Many people find relief with conservative care, like anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy. Surgery may be an option if you have a severely herniated disc or significant cervical myelopathy.

Get a comprehensive diagnosis and the care you need with Dr. Kakoulides. Schedule a consultation online or call our team at 631-358-2589 to request your first appointment. 

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