Herniated cervical disc, also commonly referred to as a slipped disc, is a condition in which the soft gel-like substance inside the center of the disc ruptures, forming a bulge that places pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Spinal discs are cartilaginous shock-absorbing pads for the vertebrae. They act as a cushion, while allowing for mobility in the spine. Each disc has a tough outer wall called the annulus fibrosus, which surrounds the inner core, called the nucleus pulposus.
A herniated cervical disc occurs when the annulus fibrosus becomes weak or torn, causing in the inner, gelatinous portion to slip out. As the inner disc material leaks out, it pushes into the spinal canal and presses against the spinal cord and nerve roots. This can be a result of the normal wear and tear of the aging process or using incorrect body mechanics during lifting and turning movements. Men are more likely to suffer from a herniated disc than women. Traumatic injuries to the spine can also result in herniated discs; although, it is less common.
Herniated cervical discs can cause painful burning, tingling and numbing sensations in the neck, shoulders and arms called radiculopathy. When a cervical disc compresses the spinal cord, problems with walking, spasticity, and incontinence may occur. This condition is known as myelopathy. Conservative non-surgical treatment options for a herniated cervical disc include the use of anti-inflammatory and pain medications, rest, physical therapy, injections and immobilization. When conservative treatment options are not successful, or when signs of myelopathy are present, surgery may be required to remove the bulging portion of the disc.