A herniated disc is a common injury that can affect any part of the spine. A herniated disc can cause severe pain and other problems in the arms or legs.
Vertebral discs are flexible, rubbery cushions that support the vertebral bones. They allow the spine to twist and bend. Each disc has a soft inner nucleus that is surrounded by a fibrous outer wall.
A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pushes through the outer wall. This herniation can result in a large bulge that can press against nearby nerve roots.
Herniated discs commonly result from age-related weakening of the spinal discs. This is called disc degeneration, and it can occur gradually over many years as a result of normal wear and tear on the spine.
A herniated disc can also result from a traumatic injury, or from lifting a heavy object improperly.
Symptoms of a herniated disc vary depending on the location of the disc and the severity of the rupture. Some herniated discs cause no symptoms, and a person with this type of injury may not realize the disc is damaged. But a herniated disc can also cause severe pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness.
Most herniated discs occur in the lower back, where they can cause symptoms in the buttocks, legs and feet. Herniated discs also occur in the neck, where they can cause symptoms in the shoulders, arms and hands.
Treatment options for herniated disc depend on the location and severity of the injury.
A herniated disc may be treated with pain-relieving medications, muscle relaxers and corticosteroid injections. A person with a herniated disc may benefit from physical therapy. If these methods are not effective, the disc may need to be treated with a surgical procedure.
Cervical facet syndrome, also known as cervical facet disease or cervical osteoarthritis, is the structural deterioration of one or more of the vertebral facet joints in the cervical (upper) segment of the spine, which is mostly located in the neck.
Whiplash, also called cervical acceleration / deceleration (or CAD) syndrome, is a neck injury commonly caused by car accidents, falls, and contact sports. It results from a quick, jerking motion that forces the neck beyond its normal range of motion.
This condition is an irritation or compression of one or more nerve roots in the cervical spine. Because these nerves travel to the shoulders, arms and hands, an injury in the cervical spine can cause symptoms in these areas. Cervical radiculopathy may result from a variety of problems with the bones and tissues of the cervical spinal column.
Causes (Herniated Disc)
One common cause is a herniated disc. A herniated disc is a rupture in the fibrous outer wall of a vertebral disc, which allows the soft nucleus of the disc to bulge outward. This bulge can press harmfully against a nerve root.
Causes (Degenerative Disc Disease)
Another common cause of nerve root injury is degenerative disc disease. It occurs when a spinal disc weakens, allowing vertebral bones above and below the disc to shift out of position. The bones can touch, pinching nearby nerve roots.
Causes (Spinal Stenosis)
When bones, discs or joints of the spine degenerate, bony spurs may form and push into the spinal canal or foramen space. This is called spinal stenosis, and it can also create harmful pressure against the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Nerve root injury in the cervical spine most commonly involves one of the three lowest levels of cervical vertebrae, which are called C5, C6 and C7. Symptoms may include pain, weakness, numbness and tingling, and may vary depending on the level of the injury. For example, an injury at the C5 level may cause pain and weakness in the shoulder and upper arm.
An injury at the next vertebral level (the C6 vertebrae) may cause pain in the shoulder and the arm, and it may also cause weakness in the arm. And finally, an injury at the lowest level (the C7 vertebrae) may cause pain from the neck all the way down to the hand, along with weakness in the arm and hand.