Jason Stephens | August 17, 2020 | Spinal Cord Injury
We often take for granted our spinal column. The bones in our spine protect the spinal cord from injury. Spinal cord injuries can result in loss of sensation and movement.
However, the bones of the spine and the spinal discs can also sustain an injury. When these vital components of our spinal column sustain damage, the result can be painful and debilitating.
Herniated discs are a common neck injury, especially at the C4/C5 or C5/C6 vertebrae.
What is the Cervical Spine?
The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae. The vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine. The spinal bones in our necks are number C1 through C7.
The vertebrae help support our neck and head to allow for movement. The bones also protect the spinal cord as it connects the rest of the body to the brain. Also, the cervical spine helps to facilitate blood flow from the heart to the brain.
However, the vertebrae are not the only component of the cervical spine that helps with movement and provides support and protection.
Between each of the bones in our neck sits an intervertebral disc. These discs are little “cushions” between the bones. They act as shock absorbers and assist in movement.
The discs are made up of two parts. The inner part is a gel-like substance called the nucleus pulposus. The outer layer is a strong fiber-like material called the annulus fibrosus.
Both parts of the intervertebral disc work together to provide a cushion for the cervical bones when we move our head or neck. Damage to either part of the cervical discs can result in severe symptoms.
What Causes Herniated Discs at the C4/C5 and C5/C6 Vertebrae?
Herniated discs are common between the C4/C5 and C5/C6 vertebrae, although herniated discs can occur at any point on the spine. Sometimes referred to as a slipped or ruptured disc, a herniated disc is a tear in the outer fibers of the disc that allows the nucleus to bulge or leak out.
When the gel-like substance leaks out, it can cause severe pain as it comes into contact with the nerves along the spinal column. The herniated disc can also cause other problems as the center of the disc bulges out between the vertebrae.
The causes of C4/C5 and C5/C6 herniated disc vary. Some of the common ways that a person might develop a herniated disc at C4/C5 and C5/C6 include:
- Disc degeneration (wear and tear from aging)
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Work-related accidents
- Lifting heavy objects
- Truck accidents
- Sports and recreational activities
- Repetitive motions
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
Any accident or condition that causes stress and strain to the other portion of the disc can cause the fibers to tear, allowing the inner portion of the disc to leak into the spinal column. Risk factors that can increase your chance of developing herniated disc at C4/C5 and C5/C6 include age, weight, and genetics.
Symptoms and Effects of a C4/C5 or C5/C6 Herniated Disc
Chronic pain is one of the most common symptoms caused by a herniated disc. Some individuals may experience a constant dull or burning pain in the C4/C5 and C5/C6 area. Other individuals may experience stabbing or sharp pain.
The pain from a C4/C5 and C5/C6 herniated disc can spread to the shoulders. Some individuals may experience pain in their hands and arms. Tingling, weakness, and numbness may also be present.
The location of the herniated disc can have an impact on the type of symptoms a person may experience. For instance, a herniated disc between the C4/C5 vertebrae causes pain and weakness in the shoulders and the deltoid muscles. However, a person with a C5/C6 herniated disc may experience symptoms in the hands, forearms, and biceps.
How are Cervical Herniated Discs Diagnosed and Treated?
Most cervical herniated discs are diagnosed after a person goes to the doctor complaining of neck pain and other symptoms associated with a herniated disc. The physician analyzes the reported symptoms and tests the person’s flexibility, pain levels, range of motion, and reflexes.
A doctor may also order one or more diagnostic tests to check for a herniated disc, such as x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.
The treatment for a C4/C5 and C5/C6 herniated disc depends on the severity of the injury and the person’s symptoms. A doctor may prescribe pain medication, muscle relaxers, and rest. Physical therapy and NSAIDs may also be used to treat a herniated disc.
In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe epidural steroid or nerve root injections to treat the symptoms of a cervical herniated disc. When none of the above methods provide relief, a physician may recommend cervical surgery. Cervical surgery may also be required if the person develops additional symptoms, such as loss of body functions or trouble walking.
Personal injury claims involving neck injuries can be complicated. It can be beneficial to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as you discover that an accident caused your herniated disc.