What is cervical disc herniation?

A hernia is the protrusion of any organ or tissue out of its usual place. In the case of cervical disc herniation, it occurs when a degenerated intervertebral disc ruptures and its contents are extended beyond the edges of the disc, pressing on a cervical nerve. This causes pain (the main symptom) which can vary from area to area depending where in the cervical spine the hernia occurs.

If the hernia is between the C4 and C5 discs, the pain usually occurs in the shoulders. If the hernia is between the C5 and C6 discs, you may experience weakness in the biceps, as well as pain and numbness in the area near the thumb. Between discs C6 and C7, the arm feels numb there is pain in the middle finger. Finally, between the C7 and T1 discs, the pain is most likely towards the fourth and fifth fingers, so it can be more difficult for the affected person to pick up objects.

Causes of cervical disc herniation

In most cases, herniated discs are caused by natural wear and tear of the disc, called disc degeneration. In other words, as the years go by, the discs are less flexible and, therefore, more prone to damage

In the case of the cervical discs, it is important to remember that they subject to constant tension and bear a lot of stress. This area often becomes stiff and painful as the day goes on because the muscular and cervical osteoligamentous structures are forced by carrying weights improperly. 

Injuries in this area are one of the problems that we encounter most frequently and can range from a muscle contraction to a herniated disc or osteoarthritic osteophytes that produce compression on the medulla or nerves.


The specific causes cannot always be discovered, as they may be the result of a combination of several factors. However, in most cases they are due to poor postural habits and overexertion. It should also be borne in mind that there are certain risk factors for developing a herniated disc:

Genetics

Genetic predisposition to disc herniation.

Work

People with jobs that require physical exertion and strenuous movement are more prone to disc hernia. 

Excess body weight

Excess weight and obesity can overload the discs and encourage their degeneration, especially the lumbar discs.

Tobacco

Use of tobacco is related to a lower oxygen supply to the disc, which favors its deterioration.

Injury

An accident, blow, or fall can also cause a disc hernia, although this is less frequent.

 

Thus, general recommendations to prevent this pathology include: taking care of posture, exercising to keep muscles strong, trying to maintain a healthy weight and avoiding tobacco. These measures will also contribute to overall good health.

Symptoms of cervical disc herniation

 

  • Arm or shoulder pain: usually appears after specific movements, like sneezing or coughing.
  • Weakness: the muscles near the herniated cervical disc tend to lose strength, which can affect the patient’s ability to pick up objects. 
  • Tingling: the hernia can cause numbness or tingling that radiates from the affected nerves to the muscles. In this case, affecting the arms.

 

Diagnosis of cervical disc herniation

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is the most widely used test for the diagnosis of herniated disc, because it yields an image with high resolution of soft tissues (disc, hernia, nerves…). This allows us to identify herniated discs and their characteristics, as well as to observe whether there is nerve root compression caused by the cervical disc hernia. In addition, computed tomography (CT) scans can also help in the diagnosis when it is very important to see the bone. 

At Instituto Clavel we have a highly qualified team, as well as the latest technology to make a correct diagnosis of cervical disc herniation and recommend the treatment that will offer the patient the best results.

Treatment of cervical disc herniation

The types of treatment for cervical disc herniation fall into 3 groups, which we describe below.

NON-SURGICAL OR CONSERVATIVE TREATMENTS

This is usually the initial treatment protocol. It includes pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and neuroleptic drugs. To improve their effectiveness, it is necessary to combine them with physical therapy and exercise in addition to changing harmful daily habits that can cause pain, such as lifting heavy objects or maintaining certain postures. If applying these methods for one or two months does not achieve the expected results, at Instituto Clavel we evaluate other surgical procedures to reduce episodes of pain.

INTERMEDIATE TREATMENTS

When the cervical pain is restricted very locally and there is no significant nerve root compression, we can recommend treatments with infiltrations or pulsed radiofrequency facet rhizolysis. These are performed in the operating room, but with local anesthesia and as an outpatient service (the patient does not need to be admitted to the hospital). Sometimes this will be the only treatment necessary, and in others it will work as a step prior to surgery. 

CERVICAL DISC SURGERY

When the patient needs a different solution to their problem, the most frequent choice is anterolateral approach cervical microdiscectomy. This approach is only lightly invasive to the cervical spine, preventing damage to the paravertebral musculature and avoiding excessive manipulation of the medulla and nerves. Furthermore, it allows for complete resection of the damaged disc and nerve decompression by microsurgery. Once this is done, we will need to replace the degenerated disk with an artificial one.

At Instituto Clavel we believe that ADR surgery (Artificial Disc Replacement) or disc arthroplasty is a better alternative to fusion surgery and much less aggressive, since it allows us to preserve the natural mobility of the spine. This consists of replacing the degenerated cervical disc with an artificial implant designed to imitate the healthy natural disc.

Evolution and recovery from cervical disc herniation

The evolution of the herniated disc depends on what stage it is at and the treatment chosen. At Instituto Clavel we are committed to personalized treatment combined with the most cutting-edge technology to carry out the appropriate treatments to help patients recover their well-being and improve their quality of life

In addition In addition, we make sure that the patient feels accompanied and well-informed throughout the recovery process, to guarantee the best results.

Who are the doctors at Instituto Clavel who treat cervical disc herniation?

All Instituto Clavel medical specialists are prepared to diagnose and treat a herniated disc. Neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery specialists perform the initial assessment and, and if surgery is indicated, they perform it. In addition, our anesthesiologist specializing in pain techniques carries out infiltration and radiofrequency treatments.

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