Herniated Disc In The Neck

Is There A Herniated Disc In You Neck
Causing Your Neck Pain?


When someone tells you that you have a slipped disc or a herniated disc in your neck, do you know what that means? They may also tell you that you have a cervical disc problem. So what is a cervical disc problem?

The term “cervical” means neck. The term “disc” refers to the shock absorbing fibro-elastic cartilage that rests between each vertebra of the spine. Think of the disc as being similar to a jelly donut. The center of the disc is liquid-like – kind of like petroleum jelly, and the outer part is tough and strong and circles the center like the rings of an freshly cut oak tree stump.

What makes the outer layer so strong is the type of tissue it’s made up of and, maybe most important, the opposing criss-cross pattern of each layer or ring of the annulus. Studies have shown that when the disc is pierced with a knife and then compressed, this criss-cross pattern of the annulus layers self-seals the cut, resulting in no leakage of the liquid center.

So, the question is…
how can a disc rupture, herniate or “slip”
if it’s so tough, strong, and self-sealing?
THE ANSWER: As your disc ages or when it’s injured… tears or “fissures” in the disc fibers occur… creating channels for the liquid part of your disc to work its way out towards the edge… and eventually break through the outer most layer… hence, the term “herniated disc.”

It’s similar to stepping on that jelly donut until the jelly leaks out to the point where you can see it.

Here’s the strange part. Research tells us that about 50% of people have bulging discs (not quite herniated through) and 20% of us have herniated discs (that have popped through) but have NO PAIN AT ALL!

That makes it tough since an MRI or CT scan may show a herniated or bulging disc but how do we know that’s the disc that’s clinically important – the one that’s creating the pain? That’s why we treat patients and not their image (MRI, CT scan or x-ray). Even though a disc may be bulging or herniated, we may not necessarily treat that particular disc if it’s not expressing itself clinically.

So, how can you tell if you have a problematic herniated disc in your neck?

Here are some clues. A problematic herniated disc in your neck will create neck pain. Plus… if the problematic disc is pinching a nerve, you’ll feel shooting pain down one arm and/or hand – usually below the elbow and often into either the thumb or pinky side of your hand.

You may have abnormal reflexes and abnormal sensation.

Your arm and hand may also feel weaker. This weakness may show up as clumsiness. For example, you may notice that you often “accidentally” drop mugs, silverware, scissors… or other items from your hand.

If you have any of the above symptoms, the herniated disc in your neck may already be pinching one of your nerves. Call our office right away at (831) 475-8600 to get our help in releasing the pinched nerve in your neck… the one that may be causing your neck pain.

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