The cervical spine is the top portion of the spine that controls your neck, there are 6 discs in this part. The vertebrae (the bone part of the spine everyone learns about in science) protects the soft tissues and spinal cord along with the nerves that run through your spine. In order for our bodies to move fluidly and not like stiff robots, the spinal discs are made up of strong elastic tissue. It is possible for the discs to dislodge and can cause the bulge into the spinal canal.
When the bulging disc presses on a nerve in the neck it can cause general pain, pain when moving, numbness or tingling in the shoulders, arms and fingers and reduced range of motion.
According to my numerous imaging studies I have bulging discs between C3-C4, C4-C5, C5-C6 and C6-C7. According to multiple sources, a bulging disc is due to the weakening of the spinal disc and encroaches on the spinal cord. This can cause pain in the neck, back, shoulders and arms. Possible causes for this include long term bad posture, injury and obesity. I am guessing between the bad posture and the numerous car accidents I have been in are the reasoning behind mine.
Statistically, everyone will have at least one bulging disc in their life. It is more common to occur in the lower portions of the spine and is due to age as the discs can wear down over time just from aging.There is a wide variety of symptoms related to bulging discs, some won’t even notice, others may have severe pain. Some will only feel pain or symptoms for a short period of time, while others will suffer long term.
Some symptoms of cervical spine bulged discs include:
- Arm muscle weakness
- Deep pain near or over the shoulder blades on the affected side
- Increased pain when bending the neck or turning head to the side
- Neck pain, especially in the back and sides
- Pain made worse with coughing, straining or laughing
- Pain radiating to the shoulder, upper arm, forearm, and rarely the hand, fingers or chest
- Spasm of the neck muscles
According to this site “The C5 and C6 vertebrae are common locations for a herniated disk to occur, and symptoms are characterized by weakness in the biceps and wrist extensor muscles. Other symptoms include pain, numbness and tingling through the thumb side of the hand. A herniated disk at the C6 and C7 locations causes root impingement of the C7 nerve. In addition to weakness and pain in the triceps, symptoms also include weakness in the extensor muscles of the fingers and numbness, tingling and pain through the middle finger.”
Some patients find relief with physical therapy that focuses on relieving the pressure of the discs on the nerve fibers. For me, I have issues with cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, in addition to MS, Meniere’s, and torn cartilage and tendons in various places. While I do physical therapy, most of mine currently is based on balance, trying not to fall while walking and muscle atrophy.