What is a Cervical Disc Protrusion?
A Cervical Disc Protrusion is a bulging disc in your cervical spine. The disc has not torn or ripped anywhere yet; it is simply protruding outside of the vertebral column. A Cervical Disc Protrusion has a better prognosis than a herniated or ruptured disc which has already been torn. A Protruding disc is one that has been caught early enough that hopefully surgical intervention will never be necessary.
In a Cervical Spine Protrusion, a disc is bulging out and this bulge may be compressing nerve root endings leading to radicular symptoms felt down the length of the arm. For instance, a protrusion of the intervertebral disc between the C5 and 6 spinal segments, may cause you to feel pain, numbness, weakness, or tingling in your shoulder all the way down to your thumb. The area of the upper arm, lower arm and thumb comprise the dermatome that corresponds to the C5-6 spinal segment. A dermatome is an area of the body that specifically corresponds to a certain spinal segment. If there is pain or other symptoms felt here, it is a clue that there may be a disc bulge, or protrusion, in the cervical spine. This could be the case even if pain is not felt in the cervical spine itself.
What Causes a Disc Protrusion?
The causes of a disc protrusion are:
- Poor posture/ slouching
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position
- Degenerative changes
- Infections near the neck
- Cervical Spinal Stenosis
- Cervical Spondylosis
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What are Symptoms of a Cervical Disc Protrusion?
Symptoms very greatly when discussing a bulging disc of the cervical spine. Cervical disc protrusion symptoms may be any or all of the following:
- Neck pain
- Loss of range of motion of neck
- Pain that radiates down into the hands and fingers
- Tingling, weakness, and numbness also felt in the hands and fingers or at any point up the arm
- Generally, these symptoms will only be on one side of the body
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Treatments for a Cervical Disc Protrusion
Treatment for a cervical disc protrusion will have the aim of reducing the bulge and preventing it from turning into a herniation where surgery will most likely be necessary. Conservative approaches to treatment are commonly successful when treating a Cervical Disc Protrusion. First line, conservative treatments may include:
- Physical therapy: the first goal of physical therapy will be to reduce the bulge in your neck by teaching you some specific, directional movements. Also, PT will aim to strengthen the muscles surrounding the neck and supporting structures. Flexibility and range of motion activities will be introduced as well. Posture and body mechanics educations will be taught as well as pain relieving modalities such as electrical stimulation
- Weight loss and healthy nutrition plan
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Heating pads
- Ice packs
- Massage therapy
If all of the above fails to reduce the pain and symptoms, surgery may be indicated. The surgery required for bulging discs is generally going to be minimally invasive as in an endoscopic procedure of the cervical spine.