Herniated Disc in Neck, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Many people who develop a herniated disk in their necks find it difficult to know which way to go as regards the treatments. Michelle, a Mexican lady had a similar problem.
Some months ago, she realized some pains from her neck. At that juncture, she tried out almost any change she thought would turn the whole situation. She tried heat, cold, new postures and even changing pillows. This however did not bring her much relief.
Few days ago, she experienced severe pains, she never had this before. She had spasms and headaches that were in cycles. She felt as though fire was shooting down her shoulders.
To at least reduce the pain she bought some pain relievers. She has been thinking right but it has now become the opposite. She cannot think, sleep or even function. She did not want narcotics any more. What she only needed was a way to fix her problem.
However, she needed to understand herniation in a more deep way than she probably did for her to effectively do away with it.
Here are causes, symptoms, how to diagnose and treatments of a herniated disc in the neck that Michelle positively went through.
The bones that form the spine are cushioned by discs. These are round but flat bones. They act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep it flexible.
Might be you have ever wondered how one is able to bend, stand straight, perform exercises and even has a capability of standing upside down and yet the spine remains undamaged. Discs are responsible for cushioning it from shock.
Discs too allow movements and that explains why you are able to move your head front and backwards.
That is why you are able to walk normally. Otherwise were it not for the discs in the spine you would remain immobile.
You probably have seen people who have had accidents and they suffer spinal cord injuries, a good number of them never walk again and instead are on wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.
A herniated disc occurs when the discs cushioning the spine breaks open in other words raptures. There are several reasons why a disc would rapture and we are going to see them below. Herniation of a disc is common with the cervical discs. Your spine is made up of seven vertebrae i.e. C1-C7. They run from the head to the spine.
However this is not to say that herniation cannot occur in other vertebrae of the spine, it is only that it is common in the cervical vertebrae.
Causes of disc Herniation in neck
My first cell phone served me for a good number of years, three and a half years to be precise. The reason I bought another one was because some of its parts became old to function. I had to keep replacing them once in a while. They had become worn out hence called for new ones.
The same case happens with our discs and joints and other body parts. They suffer from tear and wear. However this is as age progresses. The older you are the more problems of tear and wear you will likely experience.
Tear and wear of discs may be in other words referred as disc degeneration. The way the degeneration occurs is due to aging factor, the discs lose some of the fluids that helps them to maintain flexibility. This fluid acts as a lubricant ground for the vertebrae.
It also acts as a shock absorber hindering any shock that may affect the vertebrae. When the fluid dries away, the discs will be exposed to a lot of pressure and as flexibility lowers it is susceptible to more injuries that before.
A herniated disc may also result from injuries in the spine. Injuries in the spine are likely to be from diversified arenas. It may be that you had a car accident that affected your spine, it broke it or otherwise.
It might also be that you had some bone spurs near the spine which may develop and finally lead to herniation of a disc.
When an injury occurs, there will develop tiny cracks on your discs and remember this is in the outer layer of the disc. The inside of the disc is made up of spongy material that is brought into compact by a jellylike material.
So due to injuries, tiny cracks which may grow from being tiny to big cracks depending on the level of the injury develops. The jellylike fluid will be forced out through the cracks. As a result your disc will bulge, rapture or even break into fragments.
Some people are more predisposed to disc herniation than others. Smokers for instance are likely to have disc rapture than the rest of the population. Smoking is likely to weaken your bones. Smoking is a habit that you will need to do away with as early as now because its side effects are many and severe.
Symptoms of herniated disc in neck
Some of the symptoms you will likely experience due to herniation of the discs in your neck are;
At the spot where the herniated disc is located you will experience radiating, deep pains. This is because the disc will occupy more space than when it was herniated and the rupturing itself can be compared to fracturing. This will mean that it will exert pressure on some other parts of your neck.
The resultant pain is also due to the effect on the nerves and muscles. It will likely cause pinching of nerves and this will be painful. The pain will however not occur in your neck region only but you will have some pains in the shoulders, arms and in this case the upper arms mostly and even up to the fingers.
Stiff neck causes discomfort due to the pain that comes with it. It results due to injury, spending long hours in front (working) of your computer, improper posture while sleeping and stress among other factors.
Stiff neck will cause severe, throbbing pain while in some other times it is a constant dull pain. Whatever the pain, what you will require is a quick relief.
With a stiff neck, there will be a lot of pain when you try to make any movements. Though it is a widespread problem, it is mostly reported among people between the ages of 20 to 40. When this problem is not looked into, then this stiffness will get extended to the back region in no time, this will result in back pains.
Weakness and numbness
At the point where herniation of your disc occurs is the point where the nerves are entrapped. Pinching the nerves will come to be as a result of constriction and compression of the nerves at the nerve roots.
This will lead to a general weakness of the neck, it will tend to lose sensation and become numb. The neck region that is affected will appear dead and nonfunctional. However, this will spread from the neck to the shoulders.
Your shoulders will have an effect equal to your neck. Your arms, hands, wrists and fingers will also become numb. They will tend to be less receptive or respond to any changes happening in or around them.
Severe aches including headaches
Due to the herniation, the disc will affect your neck muscles in addition to the nerves. As a result you will you will tend to have internal bleeding which when not solved can even lead to a comma.
Remember also with the rapture of your disc, your spine which starts from the brain is tampered with. As a result, communication will also be tampered with hence the headaches. They will be more rampant in the first days after herniation.
Your neck region will tend to have severe aches while your head will be rampant and reoccurring headaches
Weakness in the legs
Herniation of a cervical disc may compress the spinal cord. Due to the compression, accompanied by the rupturing, will weaken the spinal cord.
When it happens, your legs will experience weakness. This is because the nerves serving the legs will be tampered with in the spinal cord. In this case your legs may become numb and you will tend to experience difficulties walking.
Diagnosis will entail a complete looking into of the history of your symptoms and a physical examination. In case this does not tell much, imaging tests will need to be done.
This will include tests such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT scan) will be necessary.
Treating herniated disc in the neck
A herniated disc is treatable. Contrary to what most people would think, nonsurgical treatments are the best. However, surgical treatments should only be used as a last alternative. Here are some of the treatments you will need to look into;
Use Traction Kits
Though it is sometimes best when left to your health care provider to perform the traction for the pain emanating from your neck region it can still be performed at home and achieves desired results.
Traction is a way of straightening broken bones or relieving pressure on the spine. Cervical traction for example, will enable you to release that pressure on the nerves in your neck. Of utmost importance is for you to note that before you perform any traction at home great care and caution will need to be exercised. This is a form of decompression.
This is how to do it; you will need to lie down with your head attached to the Saunders cervical traction unit (home kit) and slowly pump the with a hand held pump in your hand. As you continue doing this device will pull your head away from your body and thus will stretch muscles in your neck.
Deep down in your spine it will stretch your vertebrae hence creating more spaces for your intervertebral discs to relieve pressure on any pinched nerve.
Traction will remove the cause of herniation but will not solve the damage already incurred.
Brace your neck
Immediately after using the traction to remove the cause of herniation, brace your neck. This will enable the raptures which might have occurred to heal. The cracks which may also be present will be allowed to heal.
A brace is used to support, align and hold the neck in position. It will limit movement around the nerve and allow it to recover. Additionally, it helps relieve the pressure that is being placed on that particular nerve.
When braced the neck will be immobile and the discs will be held in position. It also acts as a way to hold back any deformed disc so that it adapts back to its position. For this reason a neck collar will be used by medics to treat victims who develop the pinched nerve from an accident.
A neck collar will hold the neck such that chances of poor neck postures will not be present. It may however not be possible to have a neck collar at home but you can always improvise. Try bracing your neck with any hard material that will support and most importantly align it.
Application of Hot and Cold Pack on your neck
This will be important and workable if you have not braced your neck. The best materials for this are ice and a hot compress or hot shower. When you apply ice on your neck, it will reduce inflammation and swelling.
When you apply ice on that region leave it for a period of about 15 minutes of so. In case you are experiencing very painful moments, it will be advisable that you repeatedly apply the ice a number of times in a day.
A hot compress is equally important. However, note this with a lot of concern, heat packs may aggravate the problem. Due to this reason, avoid a hot pack for the first few days after herniation. Some sources of heat that can do for you are; warm moist towel, hot water bottles and microwave bean bags.
These hot wraps will relax the muscles around and in your neck. This will remove stress on the particular nerve and pain will disappear with time. However this, hot wraps, is a continuous process not a one-time thing.
In place of ice or rather the cold pack you can use over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
After traction, bracing or a cold and hot pack, you will need to perform physical exercises that will target or rather have an impact on your neck. This is to return it to normal functioning after duration of inactivity.
Physical exercises are movements that enhance mobility of your neck and the vertebral discs in it. This will restore to original position of your disc(s) in case of herniation. They will also hold the cervical discs in the correct position.
Physical exercises that target the neck will help to stabilize its neuromuscular parts. Exercises will reduce muscle stress. They include processes like neck isometrics which will release your muscles. The main aim is to release the stress completely. This is not a one stand affair. It will require you to do these exercises now and again to revert the situation.
Moving your head in pain free directions is also one of these physical exercises that will work out well with you. Though you are experiencing that sharp pain as you try to move your neck it is necessary that you note the pain free directions. These will make you move your neck freely.
The importance of this is it will allow the other normal joints and discs in your neck to remain healthy. By moving your head the cause of the pinched nerve is weakened; you release the pressure and will definitely fully release it.
However, a great amount of caution is necessary. Do not brace your neck directly without first applying traction. This will not solve the problem as the cause of that stress will be unsolved.