What is cervical disc disease?

Cervical Disc Disease
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Cervical disc disease: Overview

Cervical disc disease results from damage, disease, or wear and tear to the discs between the bones (vertebra) in your neck. The discs act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep the spine flexible. When a disc is damaged, it can bulge out and press against the nerve roots or spinal cord. This is sometimes called a herniated or "slipped disc." This pressure can cause pain and numbness or tingling in your arms and hands. It can also cause weakness in your legs.

An accident can damage a disc and cause it to break open (rupture). Aging and hard physical work can also cause damage to cervical discs.

The first treatments for cervical disc disease include physical therapy, special neck exercises, heat, and pain medicine. If these fail, your doctor may inject steroids and pain medicine into your neck. Surgery is usually done only if other treatments have not worked.

How can you care for yourself when you have cervical disc disease?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Don't spend too long in one position. Take short breaks to move around and change positions.
  • Wear a seat belt and shoulder harness when you are in a car.
  • Sleep with a pillow under your head and neck that keeps your neck straight.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for gentle neck-stretching exercises.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can slow healing of your discs. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Avoid strenuous work or exercise until your doctor says it is okay.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.