Cervical disc hernination (neck)

An intervertebral disc sits in between the vertebra and acts as cushion and allows us to move our neck in a normal manner. However the disc develops a tear and then usually the soft centre (nucleus pulpous) leaks out and causes pressure on the nerves that supply the arms and the legs.

Patients often complain of pain in the neck with radiation into the arms and pins and needles in the hands. If the pressure is on the spinal cord then this can cause weakness both in the arms and legs. A patient may also have difficulty walking due to in-coordination.

The vast majority of patients who have a cervical disc prolapse improve with conservative treatment, which is modification of lifestyle, physiotherapy and painkillers.

Surgery is sometimes needed if patients have weakness in the arms and legs or have progressive pain which is difficult to manage.

The operation is usually done through a 3-4cm incision and does not involve cutting any muscles but just finding your way in between muscles to the front of the spine. This is not a very traumatic procedure and most patients who have it done go home the same day or next day. The relief of pain is usually immediate. Options in terms of surgery are to remove the disc and then fuse it with a small cage and a plate or in young patients to do a disc replacement.