Herniated disc symptoms occur before you feel pain. Neck pain and headaches, chronic right and left shoulder pain arise after your body provides more subtle, but often ignored, hints that something is wrong.
While a herniated cervical disc is one of the causes of neck pain your body is smart enough that it does not make you feel pain as soon as you have something wrong in your body and the same goes for a herniated disc in your neck. Life would not be very fun if the slightest mishap caused us immense amounts of pain.
Your body starts off by giving you other hints that something like a herniated disc could be affecting your nervous system. The first herniated disc symptoms will be similar to a pinched nerve in your neck and will include tingling, numbness and muscle weakness. When your body falls to about 65% of normal functionality it then thinks that you need a louder message that something is wrong and needs to be fixed.
That is when stronger symptoms occur such as neck muscle pain. Your body knows the consequences of ignoring the symptoms which is why the pain becomes more pronounced as things go further downhill.
Unfortunately most people not only ignore the early symptoms but when the pain arrives they do everything they can to cover it up. They rest, apply heat or ice, take muscle relaxants, pain pills and eventually move on to prescription medication.
All this time your body is screaming for you to do something about the problem.
You may not know what to do but it is your job to find out. After all we are learning new things everyday and it is about time we educated ourselves a bit more about our own bodies. After all it is the only one that we have. Most of us know more about our big screen TV than we do about how our own body works.
A bulging disc in our neck is the first stage of a disc problem. The nucleus inside our disc acts as a shock absorber as well as providing nutrients to our disc. It is held in place by the outer annular fibers. The fibers secure themselves to the vertebrae above and below by a root system very similar to grass roots.
When we have an injury such as a car accident or slip and fall hitting our head we tear some of these fibers creating a weak link. Subsequent injuries will pick on this weak link tearing more fibers. As these fibers are torn the disc begins to bulge.
When enough of the fibers are torn the outer annular wall tears and allows the nucleus to push out of the hole. This is known as a herniated cervical disc. This picture shows an MRI scan of a person's neck with three herniated discs circled in red.
Herniated discs tend to bulge out to one side of the vertebrae. For this reason herniated disc symptoms will typically be isolated to either the right or left side.
The exposed nucleus secretes chemicals that irritate the nerve root. This alone can cause nerve malfunction and even pain. As the nucleus moves further out of the disc it typically puts pressure directly on the nerve root. This causes even more severe neck pain.
Sometimes the herniated disc will put pressure directly on the spinal cord. This will cause symptoms on both sides of the body and will many times affect nerve impulses intended for our lower body causing symptoms such as bowel malfunctions.
Most, about 90%, of herniated discs occur in our lower back. About 9% occur in the neck area and the remaining 1% occurs in the mid back. The mid back is very protected by our trunk so herniated discs here are quite rare. When they do occur the herniated disc symptoms will be similar to a pinched nerve.
Our mid back controls things such as heart function, breathing and digestion. Many of these can be affected by a herniated disc in the mid back. People many times will experience sharp pains in their chest and think they are having a heart attack when in fact the nerve is being impinged. Muscle spasms and mid back pain are normal symptoms as the disc herniation progresses and becomes more pronounced.
The C5 or 5th cervical nerve exits out of the hole or foramen between C4 and C5. Herniated disc symptoms in this area will include weakness in the deltoid muscle in the upper arm as well as shoulder pain. These are not very common.
The C6 or 6th cervical nerve exits between C5 and C6. A herniated disc in this area will cause weakness in the biceps and exterior muscles of the wrist. It will also cause pain, numbness and tingling on the thumb side of the hand. This is one of the more common areas for a cervical disc herniation.
The C7 or 7th cervical nerve exits between C6 and C7. This is likely the most common area for a herniated cervical disc since the head and neck have the most leverage on this area of the spine before it enters the more protected trunk. Herniated disc symptoms will include weakness in the triceps and finger muscles. Pain, numbness and tingling into the fingers will also occur.
The C8 or 8th cervical nerve exits between C7 and T1, the first thoracic vertebrae. Symptoms will include weakness when trying to grip something with your hand. Pain, numbness and tingling down the arm into the little fingers is also common.
When your arm is draped down at your side the nerves are the tautest. Just as stretching a kinked hose will further reduce the water supply, the nerve supply is also reduced when the nerves are tight.
If you have some relief of the symptoms as you raise your arm over your head that is one positive sign that you can have a herniated disc pressing on one of your cervical nerves.
The body is very resilient and if you take action to correct the cause of the herniated disc symptoms instead of just taking pain pills to cover up the symptoms there is strong chance of not only being pain free but of also restoring normal function. Get an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
If you do have a herniated cervical disc a conservative treatment such as spinal decompression can likely help you.
If you wait too long neck surgery may be your only alternative. Treat your only body with the importance that it deserves and have your pain accurately diagnosed and take action to treat the problem.
These 3D animations with voice-over are to help you better understand your condition and the possible course of action to treat it.
The simple to use interface will allow you to see and hear the explainations of many conditions, inculding their treatments. The Amazing Spine area will explain the human spine and each vertebrea's affect on the internal organs and nerves.
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