Symptoms of neck pain that radiate to the shoulders and down the arms can be caused due to a variety of injuries and conditions, most occurring as the result of complications to the cervical spine and its surrounding structures. A subluxation, or spinal misalignment is one of the most common results of neck and back pain, however, the gradual degeneration of the spine can also create issues over time if not treated accordingly.
A cervical disc herniation is a frequent complication caused by the wear and tear of the tissues around the cervical spine, primarily a degeneration of the discs found cushioning each vertebra of the spine. This condition originates in the upper spine and can generally be referred to as a pinched nerve, ruptured disc or a herniated disc.
Anatomy of the Cervical Spine
The upper region of the spine is commonly described and identified by healthcare professionals as the cervical spine, which primarily functions to support the weight and movement of the head. The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, from top to bottom, C1 through C7. Each vertebrae in the neck is separated by intervertebral discs which consist of a fibrous tissue, known as the annulus, with a soft nucleus at the center. The annulus and the nucleus that make up each disc function simultaneously to provide each vertebra of the spine to absorb the shock of every movement of the spine as well as help the pressure of these be distributed evenly, separating each vertebrae individually to allow smooth movements.
However, when the annulus of one of these intervertebral discs ruptures, the nucleus can occasionally separate from the center of the disc. If this occurs, the disc is no longer able to properly separate the vertebrae as this process alters the natural shape of the discs, which could often lead to the compression and irritation of the spinal nerves. The symptoms of pain, discomfort and numbness experienced in the neck, shoulders and arms can be closely associated with the compression and irritation of the nerves surrounding the cervical herniated disc.
Causes of Cervical Disc Herniation
The gradual degeneration of the different structures of the body which occurs naturally over time is one of the most common causes of cervical disc herniations, although, these can generally develop until a person is in his 40’s. Other causes for cervical disc herniation includes trauma from improperly lifting heavy objects, equipment or machinery or from other physical activities such as an abrupt, intense twist. Additionally, cervical spine complications may be caused due to damage or injury resulting from an automobile accident or other personal injury accident.
Whiplash is a common injury caused due to the sudden force of an impact, which results in the jolting, back-and-forth motion of the head and neck in any direction, most commonly due to an auto collision. During a whiplash-associated injury, the structures that surround the cervical spine, primarily the tendons, ligaments and nerves, are stretched beyond their natural limit, partially or completely tearing the tissues around the cervical spine. Furthermore, the normal alignment of the spine may be affected, causing a subluxation in the vertebrae of the neck.
As a result, the intervertebral discs found between each vertebrae can become ruptured, leading to the compression or irritation of the spinal nerves, causing symptoms of pain and discomfort, among others, associated with a cervical disc herniation.
Symptoms of Cervical Disc Herniation
Cervical disc herniation could be the cause of an individual’s painful symptoms in their neck, shoulders, and/or arms. The following symptoms could suggest the presence of a cervical disc herniation, however, it’s essential to visit a healthcare professional to receive a proper diagnosis and similar symptoms could suggest the presence of another injury or condition.
- Pain, discomfort, or burning sensations originating from the neck and traveling down one or both arms;
- Pain with movements of the head or neck;
- Pain in the shoulder region;
- Tingling or numbness in one or both arms;
- Weakness in one or both arms;
- Limited mobility or difficulty properly moving the neck, arms or hands;
- Difficulty sleeping due to neck, shoulder and/or arm pain.
Diagnosing Cervical Disc Herniation
Your healthcare provider should be able to properly refer you to the best doctors and specialists in the region to properly diagnose your injuries and/or conditions before following through with treatment. Chiropractic care is a common, alternative treatment options that is preferred by many individuals with spine complications. Chiropractic specialized on the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and conditions associated to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
Foremost, when visiting a chiropractic office, the chiropractor will perform a thorough physical evaluation to determine the exact cause of the symptoms. In addition, the spine specialist may also take a closer look at the individual’s medical history, including previous test results and prior doctor visits. If necessary, the doctor of chiropractic may issue additional tests if necessary, including X-rays and MRI scans. Once the healthcare professional has concluded the diagnosis and has resolved the source of the symptoms, they will provide the patient with information regarding their injury or condition as well as cover the risks and benefits of each treatment option which may be available to the individual. The chiropractor will determine the individual’s best treatment options according to their specific type of injury or condition and depending on their severity.
Chiropractic Care for Cervical Disc Herniation
Chiropractic treatment utilizes spinal adjustments and manual manipulations to carefully restore the natural alignment of the spine, gradually re-aligning the vertebrae to reduce the pressure being applied against each structure. Chiropractic adjustments and manipulations can ultimately help decrease the compression and irritation of the spinal nerves, relieving the symptoms associated with cervical disc herniation. Subsequently, by reducing the individual’s pain and discomfort, their original strength, flexibility and mobility may also be gradually restores, helping them return to their normal lifestyles in no time.
Additionally, a chiropractor may recommend a series of stretches and exercises to speed up the rehabilitation process. Also, certain lifestyle changes may be implemented to ensure the recovery process proceeds smoothly without further issues. Physical therapy can also be an excellent treatment option to provide the patient with the necessary strength, flexibility and mobility to regain their original way of life.
In conclusion, in the instance that the individual is in need of further treatment through the use of other medical procedures, a chiropractor may refer the individual to other spine specialists that can provide other beneficial treatments and curative methods. In severe cases of cervical disc herniation, a patient may be referred to a spinal surgeon for treatment.
Chiropractic Care and Headaches
Complications affecting the cervical spine, such as a cervical disc herniation, can develop a variety of other symptoms, including headaches. Constant head pain can source from many types of issues along the upper region of the spine, commonly manifesting after an automobile accident or other form or personal injury accident. Fortunately, chiropractic treatment can help restore the original function of the structures surrounding the cervical spine, decreasing the symptoms, including headaches, improving the individual’s lifestyle.
For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
Additional Topics: Neck Pain and Auto Injury
After being involved in an automobile accident, the tremendous force of the impact can cause damage or injury to the body, primarily to the structures surrounding the spine. Whiplash is a common result of an auto collision, affecting the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and other tissues around it, causing symptoms such as neck pain. Neck pain is a common symptom after an automobile accident, which may require immediate medical attention to determine its source and follow up with the appropriate treatment.