Cervical Disc Herniation

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A herniated disc is a common cause of neck, shoulder and arm pain. Intervertebral discs, which act as the spine’s shock absorbers, are located in between each of the spine’s vertebrae. Each disc contains a tire-like outer band (annulus fibrosis) that surrounds a gel-like substance (nucleus pulposus).

If you think you have a herniated disc, your doctor may order diagnostic tests, including:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Herniated Disc Symptoms

What does a herniated disc feel like?

  • Dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades, possibly worse with movement
  • Pain spreading down into the arm, hand or fingers, called radiculopathy
  • Numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm

Treatment Options

Most cases of cervical disc herniation do not require surgery. Nonsurgical treatments can help relieve symptoms.

We will also help you learn about healthy posture and proper body mechanics.

Surgical Treatment

You may require surgery if nonoperative treatments are ineffective. An anterior cervical discectomy is the most common surgical procedure to treat a damaged cervical disc. The goal of this procedure is to relieve nerve root or spinal cord pressure through removal of part or the entire disc. 

Your surgeon may perform spinal instrumentation and fusion if he or she removes the entire disc. Instrumentation (i.e., screws, plates) and fusion (bone graft) joins two or more vertebrae to stabilize the spine. Our surgeons will choose the best treatment for you. They can perform many neck surgical procedures using minimally invasive techniques.

Benefits of minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Smaller incisions
  • Less time in the hospital
  • Faster recovery


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.