Of all the 23 discs in the spinal column, 6 are in the cervical (neck) spine.
Of all the 23 discs in the spinal column, 6 are in the cervical (neck) spine. Each cervical disc (composed of collagen and ligaments) rests between the cervical vertebrae and functions as a shock absorber in the cervical spine and enables the neck to handle stress and different movements. Each cervical disc has two basic components outer and inner core.
Outer core as the name suggests is a tough exterior that surrounds the inner core which is the soft jelly like interior.
The discs need to be well-hydrated so as to maintain their strength and softness and to serve their function. But usually with age, the cervical discs lose water, stiffens and becomes less flexible in adjusting to compression. As a result the space between the vertebrae narrows and nerve roots become pinched. Such degenerative changes may result in a herniated cervical disc. Also, in some instances, the cervical disc may degenerate as a result of direct trauma or gradual changes. With no blood supply and very few nerve endings, a cervical disc cannot repair itself.
Cervical degenerative disc disease may be diagnosed when a cervical disc is the source of pain in the neck, possibly from twisting or falling on the neck but more likely from years of wear and tear on the cervical spine.
Cervical symptoms related to a degenerative cervical disc may include:
Such cervical symptoms may persist for several months and fluctuate in terms of intensity and it affects an individual’s quality of life.
To diagnose cervical disc disease, firstly, a neurological exam to test an individual’s strength, reflexes, and the sensation in both arm and hand is conducted. Based on that, confirmatory tests, such as X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans help to diagnose the source of neck pain.
The chances of treating degenerative disc disease or a slipped disc without surgery would depend on a couple of factors. However, the first line in treatment for cervical disc disease is medication which helps in reducing pain and inflammation. Physiotherapy is another treatment option for cervical disc disease.
Surgery is advisable for cases where medicine and physiotherapy fail to show any positive effect. The main surgery for degenerative disc disease is called a discectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon removes the deteriorating disc and replaces it with an artificial metal disc. Discectomy may also be followed by cervical fusion, in which a small piece of bone is implanted in the space between the vertebrae. As the bone heals, it fuses with the vertebrae above and below it.
A prolapsed lumbar disc causes lower back pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the lower body. This condition is also called as a herniated or ruptured disc, and is a result of normal, age-related deterioration. It can happen to people of all ages, but is commonly seen in people after 35 years.
As the body ages, the discs between our vertebrae begin to lose their elasticity and their ability to bounce back from everyday movements. This creates pressure which pushes the soft inner disc against the fibrous outer layer. Eventually, the disc wall can tear, and inner material pushes into the spinal column, resulting in a prolapsed disc.
Intervertebral discs can prolapse because of pressure exerted due to following conditions
Falling from a significant height and landing on hips
Bending forward to lift an object which is too heavy, this force may cause a disc to rupture
Due to weakening of outer fibres of the disk due to ageing or repetitive minor injuries which build up over time, etc.