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Herniated Disc in the Neck

How to treat and diagnose a Herniated Disc in the Neck

A herniated disc can also be referred to as a ruptured disc, a bulging disc and a slipped disc. It occurs when a disc which is located between two bones puts pressure on a nerve. It "slips" out of place, or bulges, creating pressure on the nerve root. This pressure in turn can cause neck pain, shooting painsarm pain and symptoms of numbness and tingling. The skin overlying these nerve roots can feel different. Finally, a patient can have weakness in the nerve root that is affected.

The two most common levels where a cervical disc can herniated is C5-C6 and C6-C7.If a patient has been diagnosed with a C5-C6 disc herniation, the disc is affected the C6 nerve root.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

A herniated disc or bulging disc can present as constant neck pain and other types of shooting pains. You can also have pain traveling into your arms and hands with numbess and tingling as well. Depending on the level that is affected a cervical disc herniation can present in different ways. Lets look at the different levels in the neck to see how the symptoms can appear:
  • C4/C5 Disc herniation: This affects the distribution of the C5 nerve root. It can cause the deltoid muscle to be weak and also can cause shoulder pain. This affects the lateral upper arm. It usually does not cause numbness and tingling.
  • C5/C6 Disc herniation: This affects the distribution of the C6 nerve root. It can cause numbness and tingling in the lower lateral arm, affecting the thumb and index finger. The muscles affected are the biceps and the wrist extensor muscles.
  • C6/C7 Disc Herniation: This affects the distribution of the C7 nerve root. It can cause numbness and tingling along the 3rd digit (the long finger) and the triceps muscle. It can affect the triceps muscle causing numbess and tingling.
  • C7/T1 Disc Herniation: This affects the distribution of the T1 nerve root. It can cause weakness including the ability to squeeze and hold on to objects. Numbness and tingling and pain can radiate down the arm to the little finger side of hand.

How to Diagnose a Disc Issue in the Neck

Pain may or may not be the first symptom that a patient feels if they have a disc herniation. They may have a stiff neck, arm pain or a shooting pain that follows a particular path (such as into the index finger) . This pain can prevent one from completing their activities of daily living and it can be very annoying. <b>How do we know what level of disk is affected in the neck?</b>  Like we said above, a nerve root has three components: <i>sensory, motor and reflex</i>.  A neurological examination that focuses on sensory, motor and reflex testing is important in diagnosing a cervical disk herniation. Furthermore, a special type of x-ray called an MRI is the best diagnostic tool to show if there is a disc issue in the neck. 

Herniated Disc in the Neck


How to Treat A Herniated Disk in the Neck

There are many treatments available to treat a herniated disc in the neck. Most people think of surgery,  but there are many effective non surgical options with little side effects. Try traction for your neck- a gentle stretch in the neck can aid in some neck pain relief. Either you could use a special traction pillow or cervical traction unit (such as the Cervical Traction Posture Pump 1000) to acheive this. Before starting traction, have your neck examined- an x-ray can pinpoint some important diagnosis information as well. A good cervical pillow such as the cervical traction neck pillow will help as well. Sleeping on 2 pillows may be too much and can actually cause you to have a stiff neck with more pain than you started with.

Many of our patients complete a neck traction protocol during the day (they do this usually 3-4 times a week, for 10-15 minutes at a time). At night, they maintain the traction by using the arc4life traction pillow. This special pillow has a "V" on the one side, that gives the cervical spine a gentle stretch, which allows for the nerve roots to have less pressure. Again, follow what your Doctor, physical therapist or health professional has recommended. Traction is not always recommended, so check with your Doctor before beginning any type of traction session

Your Doctor may recommend a few treatment options to you; Perhaps cortisone injections, physical therapy, chiropractic, traction therapy, or maybe (depending on the severity) even surgery. Just know that there are non surgical options out there for you to try.

For example, traction for the neck using a home cervical traction unit could really help you out. Click here for step by step home traction protocol using the Pronex Pneumatic Traction Unit. Another popular neck traction unit is called the posture pump 1000. A traction pillow may also help you out at night to sleep. Finally, there is a alternative treatment for disc herniations called non surgical spinal decompression using the Drx9000C for the cervical disc herniations. Spinal Decompression uses state of the art technology to apply a distraction force to relieve nerve compression in the neck.Find out if there is a Doctor in your area who offers this treatment.

Treatment of A Herniated Disk in the Neck

Products that Will Help the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc:

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11"x15" TriSectional Cervical Hot and Cold Pack11"x15" TriSectional Cervical Hot and Cold PackA hot and cold pack that is designed for your neck and upper back area.   11"x15"
6 x 20 Cervical Hot and Cold Pack6 x 20 Cervical Hot and Cold PackA hot and cold pack that is designed for your neck and upper back area. Heat in the Microwave or Keep in the Freezer 6"x20" Hot and Cold Pack DETAILS
Air Core Adjustable Orthopedic Cervical Support PillowAir Core Adjustable Orthopedic Cervical Support PillowAir Core Adjustable Orthopedic Cervical Support Pillowfor better sleep. Adjust to the Level of Support you Need
Air Core Adjustable Orthopedic Cervical Support Pillow DETAILS
Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow (Medium)Arc4life Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow (Medium)Medium Standard Size: 24"x17". Offers traction and neck support. 

BioFreeze Natural Pain Relief Gel 4ozBioFreeze Natural Pain Relief Gel 4ozBiofreeze Natural Pain Relief Gel can be used for tight muscles, sore muscles, trigger points and muscle  spasms. 
Cervical Roll FIRM SupportCervical Roll FIRM SupportNeck Roll can be used for neck and low back support. Versatile.
Cervical Roll SOFT SupportCervical Roll SOFT SupportNeck Roll can be used for neck and low back support. Versatile.
Cervical Traction Unit-  Posture Pump 1100Cervical Traction Unit- Posture Pump 1100The Cervcial Traction Posture Pump 1100S allows for restoration of the normal cervical curve in the neck
OverHead - Over the Door Cervical Neck TractionOverHead - Over the Door Cervical Neck TractionThe OverHead - Over the Door Cervical Neck Traction Is A Popular Way to Alleviate Pressure on the Spinal Column
Overhead- Over the Door Cervical Neck Traction DETAILS
Portable Tens ElectroTherapy Unit- AnalogPortable Tens ElectroTherapy Unit- AnalogGreat for treating muscle spasm, muscle soreness and stiffness. The Portable Tens Electrotherapy Unit is a pocket size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signals. "T.E.N.S" stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
Positioning Roll- Fluffy BolsterPositioning Roll- Fluffy BolsterSimple Positioning Wedge for Lower Back Support
Positioning Dutchman Roll Bolster DETAILS
Pronex Pneumatic Cervical Traction UnitPronex Pneumatic Cervical Traction UnitThis Neck Traction Unit comes in 3 sizes. Provides anterior and posterior Disc Distraction
Pronex Pneumatic Cervical Traction Unit
Sombra Natural Pain Warming Relief GelSombra Natural Pain Warming Relief GelSombra Natural Warming Pain Relief Gel can be used for muscle spasms, arthritis, and soreness.
TracCollar Neck Traction REGULARTracCollar Neck Traction REGULARThe TracCollar Neck Traction Provides Easy Pain Relief with Air Neck Traction System
TracCollar Neck Traction DETAILS

More Reading Resources For A Pinched Nerve in the Neck:

Neck Pain resulting from a C5, C6, C7, or C8 RadiculopathyWhat are the signs and symptoms associated with a cervical radiculopathy? This blog post goes into detail about C5, C6, C7 and C8 levels of radiculopathy
The Causes of Severe Neck Pain Resulting from a Cervical RadiculopathyWhat can cause a herniated, bulging or degenerated disc to cause pain, numbness and tingling?
Understanding A Disc Problem with a Jelly Donut: Herniated Disc or Slipped Disc?What is a herniated disc? Is there such a thing as a "slipped disc"?
Neck Surgery, Your Last ResortUnderstanding the different types of neck surgery to stop neck pain
I have a pinched nerve in my Neck...If you have been suffering with neck pain, stiff neck, weakness in the arms and the hands, and noticed sensory changes in your upper extremity and neck,- then you may have a pinched nerve.
The Arc4life Traction Neck Pillow Work Well for a Herniated DiscIf you have a pinched nerve and seeking physical therapy or chiropractic treatment, chances are you may be doing neck traction. Your Dr or health professional may even have prescribed an over the door traction unit to get you started for traction. If you have are progressing well with this, then consider the arc4life cervical traction neck pillow for use at night. This remarkable neck pillow gives your neck a gentle stretch while sleeping.
What are the symptoms of a herniated disk?This special squidoo lens talks about the symptoms of a herniated disk in the neck: numbness and tingling, weakness, decrease in range of motion, muscle spasms or sometimes no pain at all !!
Neck traction units that work to fix your neck postureHere is a list for the best cervical traction units on the market today. The Neck Pain Relief shop offers all of these neck stretchers. Call us if you have specific questions related to neck traction. We will answer it the best we can.
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