Cervical disc herniations occur in the neck between any of the top seven vertebrae that make up the cervical spine. In general, they cause neck pain, but they also can cause arm pain, numbness, or weakness if the disc compresses a nerve. Cervical disk herniations can cause difficulty walking, problems with bowel or bladder incontinence, or even leg pain, weakness, or numbness if they compress the spinal cord.
Many cervical disk herniations improve with time. Conservative nonsurgical therapies such as steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, narcotic analgesics, epidural steroid injections, and physical therapy can sometimes help patients with their pain as this happens.
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion should be considered for patients with
- Neurological deficits such as weakness, difficulty walking, or bowel/bladder incontinence
- Severe pain that does not respond to medications, or
- Symptoms that persist in spite of several weeks of conservative therapies