When you hear the term “herniated disc”, you might associate this condition with a problem that can occur in the lower back. This is correct, as 80% of all adults will find themselves experiencing lower back pain at some point during their lives. The majority of cases in which a herniated disc can occur are situated in this portion of your back. A herniated disc in the back causes significant pain in this area. and the condition is also referred to as a ruptured disc or slipped disc.
However, a herniated disc can also develop in your neck or upper back. When this occurs in your neck or shoulders, it is referred to as a cervical herniated disc. However, if this condition exists in your upper back, then it is called a thoracic herniated disc. In order to help differentiate the issue of having a herniated disc in your lower back and dealing with this condition in your neck, or your upper back, it can be useful to examine the specifics of your spinal cord, and the vertebrae that protect it.
Your spinal cord consists of 33 bones, including the five vertebrae that are located in your lower back, and the seven vertebrae in your cervical spine. The cervical spinal cord can be found at the top of the overall spinal cord, which is connected to the brain. These seven vertebrae are usually referred to as C1-C7, with C-1 residing at the top of this section.
Immediately below the cervical spinal cord is the second section, which is called the thoracic spinal cord. This can be found in the middle of the overall spinal cord, and it consists of 12 vertebrae that are numbered T1 -T12. Below the thoracic spinal cord is the third region, which is referred to as the lumbar spinal cord. This can be found at the lower portion of the overall spinal cord where the cord starts to band. There are five lumbar vertebrae, and they are referred to as L1 to L5. Finally, the next region of the overall spinal cord is called the sacral spine (sacrum), followed by the Coccyx (tailbone)
There are also discs that are located between the bones of your vertebrae. These soft pads enable your back to maintain flexibility while also performing the responsibility of absorbing shock. These discs contain a ring of cartilage along with a gel-like substance. If a disc becomes herniated or ruptured then additional pressure will be placed on your nerves.
Herniated Discs In The Lower Back Versus The Neck
It is important to clarify that a herniated or slipped disc is not the same condition as spondylolisthesis or spondylolysis which are both conditions that people might encounter. Spondylolysis involves a crack that can emerge in the vertebrae, while spondylolisthesis involves slippage of the bones themselves which causes vertebrae to slip forward onto nearby vertebrae. Spondylolisthesis can emerge if spondylolysis persists without any treatment.
Causes And Symptoms Of A Herniated Cervical Disc
A herniated disc can take place due to the cumulative wear-and-tear that results from reduced flexibility in our discs as you age. You then become more vulnerable to this condition if we have rotated your body too quickly, or possibly due to strain from lifting a heavy item. A herniated cervical disc can also from being overweight, and genetics is also a factor for this condition.
If you are experiencing a herniated cervical disc, then the pain will be located in your neck. Other symptoms will include weakness in your hand or arm, or possibly numbness or tingling in your shoulder or arm. Tingling might also progress lower into your body, and it might be more difficult for you to keep your balance.
Causes And Symptoms Of A Thoracic Herniated Disc
This condition of the upper back takes place if a disc compresses a thoracic spinal nerve. In some cases, there may not be pain associated with this issue. But anyone who is contending with this may experience discomfort in their upper back, which can intensify if you sneeze or cough. Other potential symptoms include loss of mobility, numbness, and weakness in the legs if the disc is compressing your spinal cord.
What A Doctor Will Do
If you are experiencing any of the pain, numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of mobility that have been discussed, then you should visit a physician. His or her diagnosis will determine whether you are suffering from a herniated disc.
Your doctor will test your reflexes, your strength, and your mobility. He or she could also order x-rays, a CT-Scans or an MRI, which will further indicate the source of your symptoms.
If you are diagnosed with a herniated disc, there are multiple methods of treatment that will not involve surgery. They include medications and physical therapy. A small percentage of cases do require surgery if the symptoms continue after your initial treatments.
At Orthopedic Associates We Can Help
If you experienced any of the symptoms that were described previously, or you have any questions about herniated discs, or any other issues in the back or neck, we encourage you to visit us at Orthopedic Associates. Our collection of board-certified doctors can provide vast knowledge that can only result from their combined 183 years of experience. This includes our veteran team of neck and back specialists, whose expertise and dedication is beneficial toward his ability to design an effective plan of treatment for a wide range of foot conditions.
Our specialists at Orthopedic Associates treat a wide range of neck conditions, including:
Anatomy of the Spine
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Compression Fractures of the Spine
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Herniated Disc(s) (Cervical)
- Lumbar Radiculopathy (Sciatica)
- Metastatic Cancer of the Spine
- Muscle Strain of the Upper Back (Trapezius Strain)
- Post-Laminectomy Syndrome
- Spinal Epidural Abscess
- Spinal Infection
- Spinal Stenosis
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Where Lower Back Pain Begins
- Where Neck Pain Begins
Our specialists are highly experienced in performing multiple types of treatments and surgeries for the back including:
- Non Surgical Procedures
- Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections
- Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy
- Cervical Selective Nerve Root Block
- Cervical Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
- Costovertebral Joint Injection
- Facet Joint Injections
- Fluoroscopic Guided Piriformis injection
- Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection
- Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection (without contrast)
- Lumbar Sympathetic Block
- Lumbar Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection
- Magnetic Resonance Imagining (MRI)
- Medial Branch Block
- Medial Branch Block (Cervical)
- Myelography (Myelogram)
- Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
- Radiofrequency Neurotomy of the Cervical Facets
- Radiofrequency Neurotomy of the Lumbar Facets
- Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection
- Thoracic Epidural Steroid Injection
- Surgical Procedures
- ALIF: Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
- Anterior Cervical Corpectomy
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion
- Anterior Endoscopic Cervical Microdiscectomy
- Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement
- Cervical Posterior Foraminotomy
- Endoscopic-Assisted Lumbar Interbody Fusion (Transforaminal)
- Interspinous Process Decompression
- Intrathecal Pump Implant
- Kyphoplasty (Ballon Vertebroplasty)
- Lumbar Corpectomy
- Lumbar Disc Microsurgery
- Lumbar Pedicle Screw Fixation
- Minimally-Invasive TLIF (Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion)
- PLIF: Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
- Radiofrequency Neurotomy of the Lumar Facets
- Spinal Cord Stimulation
- Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant
- Spinal Fusion (Lumbar)
- Spine Stabilization System
- TLIF: Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion
- Total Disc Replacement
- Vertebral Augmentation
- Vertebral Body Replacement (VBR)
- Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion