Herniated Cervical Disk
A herniated cervical disk is condition where the disc between the vertebrae in the neck region is herniated or protrudes from its location between the cervical vertebrae. The protrusion can be caused by wear and tear of the disk space or by trauma. The protrusion or hernia in turn causes compression on the spinal nerve which causes pain in the neck, shoulder area, the arm or in some cases pain down to the leg. Since the pain is not localized to the neck patients are sometimes misdiagnosed. Proper diagnosis of the condition is done by either x-ray, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI's) or CAT Scans.
Conservative Treatment Strategies for a Herniated Cervical Disk
Surgery is usually a last resort and doctors normally first recommend conservative treatments that are non invasive. The advantages of non-invasive techniques shorten the recovery time of a herniated cervical disk by avoiding a surgical incision. These strategies include:
Rest: Resting allows the pressure of the herniated cervical disk on the spinal nerve to resolve itself. This works only if the patient does not further compress the nerve by moving around. This allows the nerve to recover from being irritated and compressed. The pressure is taken off the nerve and symptoms will eventual diminsh.
Cervical Collar: A cervical collar restricts the movement of the neck which can in the case of a herniated cervical disk adds pressure and can further agitate the spinal nerve causing pain. The collar forces the wearer to keep the neck stable allowing the hernia to stop compressing and irritating the nerve giving the nerve time to recover.
Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Prescribed medications reduce the swelling of the tissue around the hernia which in turn relieving some of the pressure on the nerve. These medications can also have analgesic properties.
Steroid Medication: A prescribed regime of oral steroids can be used to reduce the swelling and inflammation of the affected nerve in patient suffering from a herniated cervical disk. Steroids however can not be taken over an extended period of time.
Muscle Relaxants: The irritated nerve can sometimes cause muscle spasms in the afflicted regions. Taking muscle relaxants can relieve the spasms.
Physical Therapy: A patient with a herniated cervical disk can be put in cervical traction which increases the space between the discs causing the herniation to slip back into the disc space relieving the pain symptoms. Other physical therapies like exercising and strengthening workouts can help develop proper posture by strengthening muscles. This can help develop strength and the flexibility in a patient with a herniated cervical disk.
If the conservative treatment does not help resolve the pain associated with a herniated cervical disk a doctor may recommend surgery. However, it is interesting to note that 90 percent of patients with a herniated cervical disk are treated successful with conservative treatment. The other alternative treatment involves surgery or the use of medications to help shrink the herniated disc.
No matter which treatment option a patient chooses it is important to have a follow up regime that will prevent the herniated cervical disk from recurring.
If you're interested in more info you can read about herniated disk surgery here.