As we age, our vertebral discs, which serve as the spine’s shock absorbers, gradually dry out. This affects their strength and resiliency and can lead to degenerative disc disease (DDD).
Cervical DDD of the spine is a relatively common condition for aging adults. When it leads to a torn or herniated disc in the neck, it can cause pain, numbness, and nerve irritation. At UVA Health, you'll find spine surgeons who can tailor a treatment plan for you. They'll get you back to enjoying daily activities.
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment at UVA Health
For most patients with pain from a herniated disc, your spine surgeon will first recommend:
- Reduced activity
- Physical therapy
- Steroid epidural injections
Find out more about nonoperative treatments for DDD. We’ll also help you learn about healthy posture and proper body mechanics.
Is Surgical Treatment Right for You?
After six weeks, if you don't get relief, then you'll want to explore surgical options.
You might need further diagnostic tests such as:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Common Procedure to Treat Herniated Disc in Neck
The recommended surgery, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, is one of the most common procedures to treat herniated discs in the upper part of the spine. Our doctors have been performing it for decades with positive outcomes. It involves:
- Removing the damaged disc or discs
- Replacing them with spacers
- Inserting screws and plates in the spine to stabilize the spine and facilitate bone fusion
Surgeons access the spine through the front of the neck with a small incision. There is some minor risk for nerve irritation and/or irritation to the esophagus that can lead to difficulty swallowing. But otherwise the risk involved for this procedure is low.
A majority of patients feel immediate symptom relief after surgery and return home the next day. Most patients need to wear a neck brace for 2 months as the bones need time to heal.
Learn more about our expertise in spine care.