Do you have pain in neck and / or tingling, numbness and weakness in your arm or shoulder caused by cervical disc disease? There are a variety of treatment options available to resolve cervical disc issues, ranging from anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy to life changing spine surgery.
Before understanding treatment options for cervical disc disease we must gain in-depth information of cervical spinal anatomy. Of the 23 total disks in the entire monthly column, six discs are located in the neck (cervical region).
A cervical disc rests between 2 vertebral bodies of the spine. These intervertebral disks absorb shock, accommodate movement in the cervical region, provide support to the in the cervical spine, allow the neck to handle much stress and separate spinal bones to maintain height between the spinal bones.
Each cervical disc is composed of a tough, tire-like outer layer (annulus fibrosus) and a cushioning gel-like interior (nucleus pulposus), surrounded by a variety of nerves, tendons, ligaments and muscles all woven together. The complex, intricate and elaborate construct of the cervical spine makes it prune to a number of painful conditions, such as cervical degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, cervical spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis (cervical spondylosis) and simple muscle strain.
For most cervical disc disorders, doctors initially recommend conservative treatments, which include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy and neck traction.
When an abnormality in one or more cervical discs causes neck pain simple home interventions may help relieve discomfort and pain as well as relax muscles. For instance, find a comfortable position while you rest or sleep. You can place a pillow or a soft rolled up towel under your neck to stabilize the neck and keep it in a neutral position. A cervical collar may also help stabilize your neck and limit neck pain.
The first line in treatment for most cervical disc conditions is Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). Most patients with osteoarthritis in the neck, cervical spondylitis or any other condition that causes neck pain simply pop a pill that at low doses reduces pain and at high doses decrease inflammation. When over-the-counter medications fail to reduce pain and inflammation, your doctor may prescribe steroids or narcotic painkillers.
Physiotherapy is another treatment option for painful cervical disc condition. Strengthening exercises, certain movements or postures, hot packs, deep tissue massage and stretching can help relieve pain, maximize neck movements and flexibility in cervical spine to some extent. It's a good idea to take help of your physiotherapist or chiropractor who will gently manipulate your muscles and joints or use cervical traction to reduce pain and stiffness, and restore normal function of the neck. The physical therapist will show you several types of manipulations, exercises and correct postures that will not only help improve your neck pain but also increase your range of motion.
Surgery is warranted when your neck pain and motion does not improve with these conservative treatments. If you feel significant pain, numbness or weakness despite taking pain relieving drugs and physical therapy, then your doctor will consider surgical intervention as a last resort in your treatment.
The main surgery for degenerative disc disease is called a discectomy. This surgical procedure involves removing the deteriorating disc that is pinching the nerve or pressing on the spinal cord through a small incision either in the front or back of the neck. After discectomy, the healthcare professionals often perform artificial cervical disc replacement, a procedure where an artificial disc is inserted in place of original disc that was surgically removed. Fabricated from surgical grade stainless steel, the artificial disc looks and functions much like the real disc.
Many patients opt for cervical fusion after discectomy, in which a bone graft is implanted between the vertebrae, which fuses with the cervical bones above and below it.