A cervical herniated disc is diagnosed when the inner core of a disc in the neck herniates, or leaks out of the disc, and presses on an adjacent nerve root. It usually develops in the 30-to-50-year-old age group. While a cervical herniated disc may originate from some sort of trauma or neck injury, the symptoms commonly start spontaneously.
Cervical disc herniation is a common cause of neck and upper body pain. Pain may feel dull or sharp in the neck, between the shoulder blades, and may travel downwards into the arms, hands and fingers. Sensations of numbness and tingling are typical cervical herniated disc symptoms, and some patients report muscle spasms. Certain positions and movement can aggravate and intensify pain.
The 4 stages to a cervical herniated disc are:
- Disc Degeneration - Chemical changes associated with aging cause intervertebral discs to weaken, but without a herniation. This is part of the aging process discussed above, and it can cause the disc to dry out, making it less able to absorb the shock from your movements. It can also become thinner in this stage.
- Prolapse - The form or position of the disc changes with some slight impingement into the spinal canal or spinal nerves. This stage is also called a bulging disc or protruding disc.
- Extrusion - The gel-like nucleus pulposus (inner part of the intervertebral disc) breaks through the tire-like wall (annulus fibrosus) but remains within the disc.
- Sequestration or Sequestered Disc - The nucleus pulposus breaks through the annulus fibrosus and can move outside the intervertebral disc and into the spinal canal.