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Cervical Disc Herniation - Treatment Options

By Peter Johnson

Cervical disc herniation is not as common as lumbar disc herniation due to two main factors – firstly, there is little disc material found in the cervical spine and secondly, there is not much force applied along the cervical spine.


Most cases of cervical disc herniation protrude on the side of the spinal passage and will impinge the (foramen) nerve root. If the nerve roots’ space is compromised due to (osteophytes) bone spurs or the collapse of the disc space, the impingement added to the disc can irritate the nerve root thus causing radiculopathy (arm pain). If the nerve root is not compromised, the temporary pain in the arm may be relieved by conventional treatments. 


Cervical disc herniation heals on its own or with minimal conservative treatments and surgery is the last option and reserved only for severe cases of cervical disc herniation.  It is always best to trust your physicians advice.


If chronic pain is felt for more that two weeks, doctor-prescribed oral steroids can be taken to lessen the swelling and pain. Oral sedatives can be taken for extreme pain but only for a few days or a maximum of two weeks. Nevertheless, it should still be under the supervision of your physician.     


If the pain persists, conservative treatments like the following should be taken:


• Physical therapy or exercise to relieve nerve root pressure

• Chiropractic treatments to also help relive pressure on the nerve root

• Manual traction to help open the cervical foramen


You may consider using epidural injections if the pain is not relieved using physical treatments. The pain caused by cervical disc herniation can be relieved effectively most of the time. If in case the initial epidural injection does not work, continue with it every two weeks for at least three months. If 2 to 3 months of physical and medical treatments fail then surgically removing the disc to relieve the pain should be considered, but again only as a last resort.


A CT scan or MRI can be used to confirm the level of the affected cervical disc herniation. If the symptoms match the scan results the surgery is definitely the best option because it can be reliable in relieving pain with very minimal risks of complication.   


There are two types of surgery for cervical disc herniation. These are the following:


• Anterior surgery – This surgery opens the foramen to give more space to the nerve root.  

• Posterior surgery – This type of surgery is advisable for patients with an enlarged disc located in the side of the nerve canal.


Both of these surgeries are proven to be very effective. To know what type of surgery is best for your case of cervical disc herniation, talk to your physician.

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