The neck or cervical spine has bony parts called vertical bodies and discs that serve as cushion in between them. The discs are soft and allow for flexibility but when they are injured, they lose the support that they would usually offer the spine and a part of the disc is squeezed out of place and often pressed on the nerves and the spinal cord that are in close proximity. Herniated disc in the neck or slipped disc may cause severe neck pain that runs down the shoulders, arms and fingers. It often causes tingling and numbness. These symptoms give a sense of pinching of the nerve and may occur because the nerves are being compressed
A herniated disc in the neck, known as cervical spine disc herniation, may cause a severe, sharp shooting or electric, shock-type pain that runs down the shoulders into the arms and often into the fingers. The pain is made worse with moving the head, holding the head down, or sleeping may become uncomfortable, the person may feel some relief by lifting the arm and resting it over or on the head.
The discs in the neck may become herniated after trauma, a strain on the neck especially when the neck is positioned poorly. It may also be seen in the age-related, degenerative changes that take place in the spine that lead to spine arthritis also referred to as Spondylosis.
In severe cases, disc herniation that compresses the spinal cord actually affects the function of the spinal cord itself, causing weakness in the arms and legs, problems with walking and balance and loss of control of bowel and the bladder. A medical doctor should be consulted urgently if these symptoms occur as this will need urgent, medical intervention.
Management of cervical disc herniation, without spinal cord compression, includes controlling the pain with anti-inflammatory medication, therapy, exercise and evaluation to see if there is anything that the person is doing at work or at home that may be aggravating the pain, and putting pressure on the discs. For example; a good way to sleep and avoid putting too much pressure on the discs in the neck, that may cause pinching of the nerve, is to sleep with your head and neck supported properly.
Your neck should be in the right or neutral position. This does not happen when you use a very large pillow or too many pillows that twist and bend your head too high above your body, or on the other hand, having your head too low such as using a very low pillow or no pillow at all, especially when you sleep on your side.
When you sleep on your tummy, you often end up turning your head to one side and this position may cause twisting of the neck and pinching of the nerves. An ideal pillow is one where your head and neck are well-supported and the spine is in a normal and neutral position.
An exercise routine for the neck that maintains range of motion and muscle strength is essential to preventing neck pain and to maintain a healthy spine.