What is Cervical Disc Protrusion?
Cervical disc protrusion, commonly known as a disc bulge, occurs when the spinal discs and associated ligaments are intact, but may form an outpouching that presses on the spinal nerves.
Causes of Cervical Disc Protrusion
Cervical disc protrusion generally develops in the age group of 30–50 years because of trauma to the cervical spine.
Symptoms of Cervical Disc Protrusion
Cervical disc protrusion causes a dull, aching or sharp pain in the neck or shoulder blades. Sometimes, the pain may radiate along the arms to the hands and fingers. Tingling sensation and numbness may be felt at the fingertips. It is necessary to seek medical care before your symptoms get worse.
Diagnosis of Cervical Disc Protrusion
Your initial visit to your doctor may include a physical examination, evaluation of your symptoms and medical history and a neurological examination. A computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be advised to assess the disc damage.
Treatment for Cervical Disc Protrusion
Both surgical and non-surgical treatment approaches are available for the management of cervical disc protrusion.
The first line of treatment your doctor may suggest is conservative methods such as cold or heat therapy. During the first 2-3 days, applying ice (wrapped in a towel) can reduce swelling and pain by limiting the blood flow. Heat therapy can be started after 3 days to increase blood circulation and relax the soft tissues. Cold/heat therapy should not be continued for more than 20 minutes each time. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants may be prescribed. Physical therapy treatments that include massage, stretching exercises, and neck traction may be recommended. Most of the time, these self-care measures alleviate your pain in about 4-6 weeks.
If your condition is severe and cannot be treated with conservative approaches or in case of spinal cord compression, your doctor may recommend surgery. Cervical disc protrusion can be corrected by partial or complete discectomy (removal of a disc), or laminotomy (removal of lamina). These spine surgeries can be performed using the minimally invasive method involving smaller cuts and tiny instruments.