Cervical disc herniation
A cervical disc herniation corresponds to the expulsion of a piece of disc on its posterior surface.
1) A bit of anatomy:
The cervical region consists of 7 vertebrae. Between these vertebrae, there are intervertebral discs in front, acting as a shock absorber, and joints behind, allowing movement between each level in flexion, extension and rotation.
In the center of these, the spinal cord passes and distributes 8 nerve roots on each side, on each floor, which come out between each vertebrae.
These roots travel from the neck to various parts of the upper limb and innervate the muscles, skin and joints along their route.
2) WHAT IS A HERNIATED CERVICAL DISC? WHAT ARE THE DAMAGE MECHANISMS?
A cervical disc herniation corresponds to the expulsion of a piece of disc on its posterior surface. In some cases, this fragment can compress a nerve root.
This compression then creates a “disco-radicular impingement”, which causes the root to pinch and creates a painful signal on part or all along its path. This is called cervico-brachial neuralgia.
Cervical disc herniation can occur at any age. However, it is most often seen in young adults. Some of the risk factors include:
The genetic (hereditary) factor
Smoking, which can accelerate disc degeneration
Acute and/or repeated trauma (sport, accidents, etc.)
3) WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
In case of cervico-brachial neuralgia, the symptoms can vary according to the importance of the compression:
Pain (“electric shock”, “burning”), it describes a specific path corresponding to the affected nerve
Motor disorders, loss of strength or precision in movement, corresponding to severe damage to the root.
4) IS IT SERIOUS?
Cervical disc herniation can exist without creating pain. Indeed, it will only become problematic and symptomatic when a disco-radicular conflict is created.
In this case, the pathology can meet various levels of severity.
If you experience symptoms similar to those mentioned above, it will be important to consult a doctor to determine the extent of the lesion and the resulting therapeutic choice.
These decisions will be made based on the questioning, the clinical examination as well as the analysis of the medical imaging performed (MRI, X-ray, EMG, scanner, etc.)
5) IS SURGERY MANDATORY?
A herniated cervical disc of this type evolves in nearly 90% of cases towards spontaneous healing, the disc fragment responsible for the compression being resorbed by the body.
In order to relieve pain during the inflammatory period, medical and anti-inflammatory treatments are offered in addition to physiotherapy. This can last several weeks.
However, if the pain persists for more than 3 months, the body may not be able to heal the hernia. In this case, surgery is considered.
Finally, cases of severe herniated discs causing a major motor disorder or major sensory disorders represent a surgical emergency.
6) HOW DOES REHABILITATION TAKE PLACE?
The initial treatment will combine medical aid (analgesics, anti-inflammatories) with rest and physiotherapy. The latter will focus on different points:
Progressive global and specific muscle building
Education of the patient about his pathology
7) CAN I CONTINUE TRAINING?
Cervical disc herniation does not represent a compelling reason for interruption of sport.
However, the choice to discontinue the activity will depend on the severity of the injury and the resulting symptoms. Consulting a health professional will then determine the causes of the pain as well as the procedure to follow in order to return to your sports practice as soon as possible in complete safety.
8) WHAT CAN I DO TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS?
In order to speed up the healing process, be sure to follow the recommendations of the health professionals with whom you work.
Laziness or, on the contrary, overzealousness, will be your enemies.
Conversely, discipline, rigor, perseverance as well as a positive and voluntary state of mind will help you get back in top shape as soon as possible!