Neck disc problems can be very frustrating to live with, not only because of the pain they cause, but also because of the disability that can occur.
This article will discuss what a neck disc is, the most common conditions that can develop with one, symptoms related to a neck disc, as well as the most effective treatment options for these problems.
The discs of the spine are cushions that separate each set of bones in the back. Their primary purpose is to act as shock-absorbers between the bones, which protects the bones of the spine from breaking or rubbing together when you move (which would be very painful).
The spinal discs are actually a special type of ligament, and their other purpose is to hold the bones of the spine together. Each one is composed of two main parts - a strong, outer covering (called the annulus), and a soft jelly center (called the nucleus).
This structure is very important - especially the jelly in the center of each disc. One of the problems with the spinal discs is that they don't receive a very good blood supply, which dramatically slows their healing time if you ever injure one.
The jelly actually stores oxygen and nutrients for the disc to heal if there is ever an injury, which is why that part of the disc is so important.
With this in mind, there are two primary conditions that can develop related to a neck disc. The first is a bulging disc, or a herniated disc (which are essentially the same problem). With this condition, the strong outer covering of the disc tears, and the jelly begins to shift out of the center of the disc, into the area where the disc is torn.
This creates an area in the injured disc that literally bulges out. Now, one thing that you may not know about the spinal discs is that they are unable to feel pain sensations. This may sound crazy at first, because if you're living with this condition, or know someone who has experienced this, you know it can be very painful.
If you think about it, though, it makes sense that the discs of the spine wouldn't be able to feel pain because of their function of absorbing shock. So, if this is the case, what actually causes all the pain with this condition?
Well, if you were to look at the spine, what you would see is that the nerves of the spine are actually located right behind each spinal disc, which is usually where they will bulge. Because of this, the bulging disc will usually apply pressure on the nerve, which can be very painful.
In addition to the pain, a bulging disc can also cause quite a bit of disability because the nerves of the spine control everything in the body, and if there's pressure applied to a nerve, it will stop communicating with the body properly and lead to problems with whatever it is controlling.
The second major condition that can occur with a neck disc is called degenerative disc disease (which is a form of arthritis that occurs in the disc). In this case, the jelly in the center of the disc will start to become dehydrated (which means it loses water). This causes the disc to flatten, which also causes pressure to be applied to the nerve in that location.
So, if the main source of the pain in each of these cases is the affected nerve, what types of symptoms may occur if you develop a problem with a neck disc?
In addition to neck pain, it's also very common for a person to experience headaches, shoulder, arm, and/or hand pain, weakness in the arms, numbness in the arms, chest pains, thyroid problems (which usually leads to weight problems), ringing in the ears, and vision problems.
These symptoms are common because these are the parts of the body that are affected by the nerves in the neck.
If you're experiencing pain from a neck disc problem, there are a number of things you can do for relief. Most doctors will recommend medications (usually a combination of muscle relaxers and pain relievers), pain injections (such as cortisone or epidurals), physical therapy, and surgery (as a last resort).
However, it is important to note that these treatments usually don't provide long-term relief because they are primarily focused on numbing the affected nerve to affect the pain levels. Although this may sound good on the surface, it's important to remember that the source of the problem is actually the injured nerve, so if you don't get the disc to heal, the pain returns when you discontinue those treatments.
Alternative treatments are also available for these conditions. Treatments such as chiropractic, massage therapy, and acupuncture have all been found to be helpful with these conditions.
One thing I should bring up at this point, however, is that neck disc conditions are usually more complicated and difficult to heal because of the lack of blood going to them. Because of this, I have found that it's often a combination of treatments that provide the best results for these problems.
You need to be patient with the healing process, because it can take anywhere from 2 to 5 years for a disc to heal completely with the right combination of treatments, so try your best to not get frustrated (although I know that's easier said than done when you're in pain).