Signs you have a herniated cervical disc
Have you ever had neck and back pain without knowing why? One minute you’re completely fine, bending down to pick something up. Then, the next minute, a shooting, irritating pain is plaguing your neck or back. This could be caused by a herniated disc.
Spinal discs, which include a dense center and are composed primarily of water with a small amount of soft tissue, separate the vertebrae in the spine. You can compare the disc to a jelly doughnut. The disc might twist and rupture due to a simple movement like leaning forward, squeezing the jelly out of the donut, and pressing on the sciatic nerve.
Dr. Gurpal Singh Pannu, an orthopedic surgeon at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn Ill., explains the common symptoms of this condition.
“A person with a herniated disc may experience an episode of sciatica-like symptoms in the arms. Other signs could be tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs,” says Dr. Pannu. “Occasionally, people can lose control of their bowels and bladders.”
Herniated discs are more likely to occur in men, however, there are several other risk factors to consider.
“Weight gain and frequent bending and twisting are risk factors for a herniated disc,” notes Dr. Pannu. “Age also plays a role in the issue because wear and strain frequently result in disc degeneration, which increases a person’s risk of developing a herniated disc. Additionally, older people have less water in their spinal discs than younger people. The less flexible and drier discs are, the more likely they are to break”.
You should see a doctor if you have severe symptoms, including stumbling, awkward walking, tingling down your body, mobility problems, or loss of balance and coordination, as these could be signs of spinal cord problems. The condition is often diagnosed using an X-ray and an MRI.
“A herniated disc usually heals in four to six weeks but depending on the location and the severity of the herniation, it may heal faster or slower,” explains Dr. Pannu.
Rest and over-the-counter painkillers are typically beneficial. If those don’t help, your doctor might prescribe other drugs, such as muscle relaxants, nerve pain relievers, or, less frequently, narcotic painkillers. Furthermore, physical therapy and steroid injections can provide pain relief.
For people whose pain persists and negatively impacts their quality of life, surgery may be the best option. But to find the best treatment for you, schedule an appointment with a provider.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.