I often get asked, “What does a herniated disc in the neck feel like?” Well, most of the time there would be some discomfort in the neck, and then oftentimes there will be some sort of pain going down the neck into the shoulder, oftentimes into the arm, and into the hand. Let me show you what a normal healthy disc nerve relationship looks like. Here’s the vertebra here, and you have this disc in here which is a cartilage pad with a little gel nucleus, almost like a jelly donut. And it has these rings that go around, and this is the harder part. And then there’s this softer part here, and that softer part serves as a fulcrum around which the bone can move.
Now what happens is if there’s a change in the shape of the spine, typically we’ll have a loss of curve in the neck or lower back, depending on where the disc is to herniate. And what that’ll do is it will change the dynamics of the disc and it’ll start to squish down. What will happen is that jelly donut, as if you were squeezing down on a jelly donut, that gel will start to bulge out or start to squirt out towards one side. And then, in that situation, what we get is a herniated disc or a disc bulge, where it actually bulges out the end of the disc where the nerves come out. That’s how it can create nerve pain which can go down the arm and to the hands. If it’s in the lower back, it’ll actually go down the leg. That’s where sciatica can come from, or other radicular-type symptoms down into the legs and the feet.
Most of the time when somebody has a herniated disc, whether it be in the neck or in the back, a lot of times there’s neck pain or back pain associated, not always, but most of the time there is. But usually if it is herniated enough to where it bulges to the point, it can affect the nerves going down the arms and down the legs. If you’ve ever had any kind of numbness, tingling, pain in the arms, in the hands, or down the legs, then there is a pretty good chance that you could possibly have a herniated disc. If so, I highly recommend you find an upper cervical chiropractic near you. We work on trying to recreate the curves in the spine which will allow the disc then to ultimately suck back under that area back underneath those bones and take the pressure off the nerves so that the body can heal. And then, in that situation, not only does the nerve pain and the pain in the neck and back clear up, but we want to get it stable, so it never comes back again.
The traditional medical approach is twofold. First, they give you medications to numb it, and it’s never going to fix anything. This bulge is still there, until it gets so bad where the drugs don’t work and then they go in and they do some sort of surgery. Now typically, if it’s early on they’ll go and they’ll shave off part of that outer bulge. Well, what they’re shaving off is the reinforcement that’s holding that gel in there so that it’s now thinner making you more susceptible to a rupture. Now a rupture is when the disc fluid, the gel part, actually squirts into the canal. The only option now is to go in and surgically have that gel taken out. Now, a more radical approach is when they’ll do fusions, and they’ll just basically cut the entire disc out and fuse the two bones together, which means now instead of having normal motion, these two are stuck together, so you have limited motion.