Cervical Herniated Disc Symptoms and Treatment

The symptoms of my herniated disc started with numbness in my right thumb, it wasn't until a couple of weeks later that I saw my GP about it, he immediately diagnosed a herniated C5/C6 disc (at the top of teh spine). The nerve that is being comressed by that particular herniated disc is the one that causes the numbness is the thumb apparantely. I've had an MRI to confirm it as you can see and he's referred me to a surgeon.

It's quite common as I understand it, has anyone else had the same?

How was it treated?

Hi James. I have a herniated disc, but in the lower back. After an MRI scan I was referred to a surgeon. On the advice of my doctor I had pain medicine and physiotherapy as he reckoned that surgery often failed. My physiotherapist also advised against it as he was regularly seeing patients who had the surgery. It was about a year before return I could return to normal physical work and now I manage any flare ups with excercises recommended by my physio.

My advice would be to explore all avenues before heading down the surgical route. Of course surgery at C5/C6 may have a more successful outcome than the area where mine is. Good luck!

Often needs no treatment, and resolves on its own. If severe may need discectomy. But that carries risks

I had a herniated disc in 2009, but it was L4 rather than cervical. I was in Dresden at the time, and it started with a gradual dull pain in one leg, and got worse every day for about 6 weeks.

It too was diagnosed finally with an MRI. My GP hadn't managed to fix what we thought might be a different issue, and she called the hospital with the MRI scanner on a thursday aftenoon and I was seen on the monday, left with a CD containing the images and a program to view them, and my GP had a fax with the analysis two days later.

Anyway, the doctor wanted to avoid surgery at all costs (which suited me absolutely fine), and I was prescribed painkillers and physio. She said if ever at any point I started to lose feeling in the leg to go immediately to A&E and they'd operate. But as I say, she really wanted to avoid that.

Eventually the drugs and physio worked, and as things got better I ramped down the painkilllers until I didn't need any more. Since then I have taken more care of my back, and also had a series of sessions with a kiné méthode Mézière, and haven't been in such good shape for a long long long time. I was 51 last birthday, by the way. Aparently there's a window of opportunity for such hernias, and beyond about 55 I don't think they happen any more.

i had a protruding disc at C6/C7 and i received a root sleeve injection. It has really helped.

James I have years of experience of cervical spine problems, having a tumour in the spinal cord itself at the C5 area, first noticed with acute pain in the right elbow in 2000, never had any treatment just MRI scans yearly then less frequent to check on it. It's too dangerous to biopsy. Plus given that I have lower lumbar spine stenosis, narrowing of the foramen and bulging discs I had MRI's there and the consultant said he could remove one disc, but there was a 1:300 chance of paralysis, also the load is transfered to the next disc, the risk of infection, failure of the fixating of two bones, it works for some patients, others get 6 months relief, some get no relief or a few days only... blah blah, so I decided against surgery, took physio sessions, now I do relevant exercises. Otherwise I do survive on neuro-block pain killers. Any surgery has risks, it's whether the surgeon has an excellent record and will he guarantee the outcome ? Plus what are the other treatments offered .... surgeons are surgeons, they operate by choice.

I had 2 herniated discs also at the top of the spine. Symptom was excruciating pain down my right arm. Luckily I lived in Dubai at the time, with private insurance and a brand-new neuro-spinal hospital down the road. The surgeon removed the discs, replaced them with titanium rings which were filled with bone matter from my hip and merged with the surrounding spine. At this location, it didn't interfere with movement, so I had a 100% successful recovery. Personally, if you're suffering, I would not hesitate to have surgery!

Re age: I was well over 55 when I had my hernia operation, so they do happen at a later age!

That sounds similar Guy, C5/C6 pain all the way down my right arm. New pain medication dose is working ok for the moment.

I was recommended surgery because the surgeon said that a blocked nerve would deteriorate after a while, and I might - in the end - loose feeling down my arm...

Dear James, dear all,

I'm sorry to hear about your difficulties with herniated discs. I have had success helping a number of clients with herniated discs to recover pain free function without surgery. I am a movement rehabilitation practitioner - Feldenkrais method. Generally imbalanced postural and movement patterns and habits place strain and tension on vertebrae leading to herniated discs. In many cases it is possible to re-educate the problem causing patterns to improve neuromuscular functioning and skeletal alignment, most importanty the alignment of the vetebrae that are putting undue pressure on the discs, in order to relieve this pressure, and as a reuslt the pain and associated complications. Clearly if there is an imminent risk to your ife and surgery is urgent and life saving then that is what must be done, however if there is time to explore surgery free options I can highly reccommend this approach. I work in Paris, and also do clinical days and weeks in other towns in France and abroad by arrangement. If you are interested to consult me you can contact me by email or phone: sophie.dingemans@gmail.com, 06 43 22 31 93. You can also read more on my website: www.movement-works.com . Email is best until May 21st 2016 as I am currently away working in Bucharest.

All the best to you all on your roads to revovery,

Sophie Dingemans

My husband has a big problem with this - he has some sort of degenerative disease. In 2006 he underwent surgery as a matter of urgency because of the pressure on the spinal cord and the risk of paralysis. C2-C3 and C4-C5 were removed and the vertbrae subsequently fus3d, solving the problem although limiting movement of his neck. Since then C6-C7 was operated on in France but less successfully and he is in constant discomfort now, and serious pain when he does too much physical work.

Things are advancing though and in the US and, I believe, Holland and Germany, it is now possible to do replacement surgery, using digitally printed bits!

If your symptoms remain at some tingling and small discomfort, perhaps it's best to avoid surgery.

Good luck.

Hi James, about 20 + odd years ago I had the first of 3 attacks of 'Plantar Fascitis'....horribly painful soles of my feet. Tried all types of painkillers to no effect and eventually made it to my GP at the time who was of Chinese origin. She told me that there were 2 solutions, one being to have cortisone injections to the soles of my feet which she said 'was effective, but would make me scream'......I declined this offer (my vivid imagination in overdrive,..me breaking free of being held down after the broken end of the needle became embedded in my foot)...and took her up on the other which was 1 treament of accupuncture in her surgery.....mildly uncomfortable, no 'moxibustion'.....

All I can say is that this was a 'miracle cure,....the pain completely disappeared over 5 days. each morning less and less pain, until it had completely gone. I had one more minor attack a couple of years later, which thankfully, went away eventually after another treatment with someone else (as by then my doctor had retired).....an accupuncturist.

I have also had this, combined with massage, to treat a sore, stiff, lower back, which had completely seized up....took a day or so be alright again.

I urge you to try this......fantastic treatment with no pills to wreck your guts or become 'hooked on'.

Best of luck.

My mother had the Cortisone injections for that condition. They did indeed make her scream but cured the problem. Recently she's been having injections directly into her eyes for Macular Degeneration....makes me shudder just thinking about it!

I used to be a surgical assistant to a spine surgeon and also spent 20 years selling spine implants, metalwork, screws etc.

Degeneration is the big cause of disc prolapse and can often be due to a previous trauma. The disc wall you see in between the vertebra splits allowing the jelly like interior to herniate out. The traditional first treatment option was bedrest. Nowadays anti-inflammatories and such like can help reduce any localised swelling and muscle spasm that add extra pressure to the nerve. Some manipulations can help though best only to use a recognised professional.

Depending where and how a disc has herniated can dictate surgical treatment options should that be the path decided on. The most common surgical intervention for a cervical disc herniation is going in from the front (actually to the side as well even though it's called an, 'anterior' approach, removing the disc and then fusing the two vertebra together by use of a bone block or an implantable spacer with bone material in it. Using such a spacer regains the height of the disc space thus opening the canal where the nerve root is and lessening any chance for further nerve root issues at that level. It is possible to extract the disc from the back, 'posterior approach' though this is made more difficult due to the vertebral artery. Lack of working space can make jacking the disc up and placing an implant to maintain height next to impossible which means doing this fails to address future potential root issues and allows possible re-herniation as the disc remains. A fusion can be done via screws and rods or plates from the back but would not be usual for this indication. In the past 15 years disc replacement surgery has gone in and out of fashion. Implants that mimic some of the motion of a normal disc have been used, sometimes with great success. In the cervical area the results for a plain anterior intervertebral fusion are so good in the hands of experienced surgeons that the use of disc replacement and some of the issues is not widespread. The nice theory of disc replacement is that maintaining motion in the segment reduces the stresses that can be place on the segment levels above as well as maintaining disc space height. The spine works like a mast on a ship with stresses reduced as movement travels up the spine. Fuse a level and it makes the level above work more than is normal thus increasing potential issues. However, there have been issues with disc replacement and some conjecture whether there is the amount of movement reported.

It is reported in places that if arm pain subsides with no surgical intervention there is little chance it will recur. However, re-herniation can happen. Some specialists will wait up to 12 weeks before operating to see if things settle down first. It will of course depend on many things including how debilitating the symptoms are for the patient, the nature of the injury and the prognosis.

Sorry this is a little garbled, I'm doing it on a small screen after a crappy day at work.


As far as surgery is concerned, 'needles into the eyeballs'...more than very cringeworthy...gave me a very real Dali-esque moment.......take this...


Gruesome.....just off to have nightmares now....

Hilary you're lucky to have a doctor who proposes some alternative treatment,can't imagine mine proposing acupuncture. I have tried it many times over the years for various ailments but with no success.Glad it worked for you.

In 2008 I had a c3-c4 subluxation. I had surgery with a series of rods and a wire cage put in. Before surgery I couldn't walk, I could shuffle back bent about 100m.
18 months later, after rehab & training, I rode my bicycle in my first of now many Ultra-cycling races. 320km non stop with 3400m of climbing. When I went in for the surgery I was a 134kg and smoked 20-30 a day. Im now 90kg and most certainly not a smoker.
In 2012 I had a double Hip replacement- 8 months later to mark my recovery I rode the same even but did the 640km race.

Jan 2015 I had an l3-l4 subluxation, Again rods, blocks and screws stuck in my back. This ones been a bugger coming back from, we also had a very wet and cold winter down under, which hampered my ability to train outdoors and in my weakened state I picked up every single bug doing the rounds.
My plan to come back from this one is to fly into Nice next may and circumnavigate France by bike....but given my love of the local foods I think this may be a case of acquiring excess baggage than losing any !

End of the day- never let problems define you- let them free you .

Yes, Tim, that's fine...'bouncing back'....just as long as you get A1 medical treatment that is recoverable from...or like a couple of members of my family.....medical treatment in sub-standard UK, facilities (re-conditioned workhouse in Camberwell...grim with no lifts and where she acquired a broken upper arm, because the ambulance man slipped on the stairs whilst carrying her !)...filthy conditions (hospital acquired infection during replacement knee surgery, that was never cured), by 'Quacks'....That's just one person...I could (easily go on with another example of prolonged substandard 'treatment'.....relating to Mental Health expertise.....) but perhaps I'll save this for another occasion.....