Cervical herniated disc

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is cervical herniated disc?

A cervical herniated disc is a condition when the inner core of a disc in the neck herniates, or leaks out of the disc, and presses on an adjacent nerve root. It is noticed that the discs in the cervical spine are not very large; however, there is also not a lot of space available for the nerves. This means that even a small cervical disc herniation may impinge on the nerve and cause significant pain. The arm pain is usually most severe as the nerve first becomes pinched.

How common is cervical herniated disc?

Cervical herniated disc usually develops in the 30-to-50-year-old age group.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of cervical herniated disc?

A herniated disc in the neck can cause a variety of symptoms in the neck, arm, hand, and fingers, as well as parts of the shoulder. The pain patterns and neurological deficits are largely determined by the location of the herniated disc. The cervical spine is constructed around the vertebrae, or the 7 stacked bony building blocks in the spine. They are numbered top to bottom C1 through C7. The nerve that is affected by the cervical disc herniation is the one exiting the spine at that level, so at the C5-C6 level it is the C6 nerve root that is affected.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Shoulder pain and weakness in the deltoid muscle at the top of the upper arm, and does not usually cause numbness or tingling.
  • Weakness in the biceps (muscles in the front of the upper arms) and wrist extensor muscles.
  • Weakness in the triceps (muscles in the back of the upper arm and extending to the forearm) and the finger extensor muscles
  • Weakness with handgrip, along with numbness and tingling and pain that radiates down the arm to the little finger side of hand.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes cervical herniated disc?

It is proved that cervical disc herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration. As you age, your spinal disks lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for cervical herniated disc?

There are many risk factors for cervical herniated disc, such as:

  • Lifestyle choices such as tobacco use, lack of regular exercise, and inadequate nutrition substantially contribute to poor disc health.
  • As the body ages, natural biochemical changes cause intervertebral discs to gradually dry out, affecting disc strength and resiliency.
  • Poor posture combined with the habitual use of incorrect body mechanics can place additional stress on the cervical spine.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is cervical herniated disc diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will also review your symptoms and medical history. Some test will be disorders, include:

MRI scans

The single best test to diagnose a herniated disc is an MRI scan. An MRI scan can image any nerve root pinching caused by a herniated cervical disc.

CT Scan with Myelogram

An MRI is the best first test, although occasionally a CT scan with a myelogram may also be ordered, as it is more sensitive and can diagnose even subtle cases of nerve root pinching.

How is cervical herniated disc treated?

There are plenty of treatment options that your doctor may recommend, including:


When the initial pain from a cervical herniated disc hits, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Nuprin, Motrin) or COX-2 inhibitors (e.g. Celebrex) can help reduce the pain.

Nonsurgical Treatments

In addition to anti-inflammatory medications mentioned above, there are a number of non-surgical treatment options that can help alleviate the pain from a cervical herniated disc, such as:

  • Physical therapy and exercise.
  • Cervical traction
  • Chiropractic manipulation.


If cervical herniated disc pain does not resolve in a few weeks to a couple of months, surgery is an option if the pain is severe and lasting longer than 6 to 12 weeks.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage cervical herniated disc?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with cervical herniated disc:

Take pain relievers

Over-the-counter medications — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve, others) — may help reduce the pain associated with a cervical herniated disk.

Use heat or cold

Initially, cold packs can be used to relieve pain and inflammation. After a few days, you may switch to gentle heat to give relief and comfort.

Avoid too much bed rest

Too much bed rest can lead to stiff joints and weak muscles — which can complicate your recovery. Instead, rest in a position of comfort for 30 minutes, and then go for a short walk or do some work. Try to avoid activities that worsen your pain during the healing process.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: August 9, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019