Is A Herniated Disc A Permanent Disability?

Cervical Radiculopathy from a Herniated Cervical Disc

When a disc in your spinal cord becomes herniated in your neck, it can leak into your nerve root tunnel or spinal canal and damage the nerve root. This process eventually leads to cervical radiculopathy – something which causes immense pain, numbness, and weakness across your shoulder and arm.

In truth, a cervical herniated disc is less common to develop than a lumbar herniated disc. This is primarily due to two things:

  • The cervical spine doesn’t have enough disc material
  • The cervical spine has much less force

People between the ages of 30 and 50 are most prone to herniated discs in the neck.

The Course of Herniated Disc Pain
A herniated disc in the neck will easily cause terrible symptoms and pains that can disrupt your life and daily functioning. However, the truth is that most symptomatic herniated discs will eventually resolve on their own. Some studies have found that cervical radiculopathy from a herniated disc should begin clearing up between four and six weeks. However, some symptoms could very well drag out to half a year.

The best treatment for a cervical radiculopathy resulting from a herniated disc is non-surgical treatment. Keep at it until the symptoms reduce in severity and disappear. It is rare for surgery to be recommended. Most times, this only happens when the symptoms get considerably worse or they just don’t leave.

Cervical Radiculopathy Symptoms from a Herniated Disc
When you get cervical radiculopathy due to a herniated disc, you notice that the pain gets worse if it is caused by a cervical osteophyte or a bone overgrowth. This is because a herniation of the disc causes the inner layer to contain inflammatory proteins that can easily leak into the nerve root. That chemical reaction is created when these proteins go into the nerve root, and it can cause a lot of pain.

The symptoms of cervical radiculopathy can easily radiate anywhere from the neck to the fingers. The symptoms could include any of the following:

  • Burning pain
  • Pin-like tingling
  • Numbness, which might also include tingling
  • Weakness in the shoulder and arm

The location of these symptoms will depend on the cervical disc that is herniated and the nerve root that is being impinged. For instance, a C6 radiculopathy can cause symptoms around the index finger and thumb. On the flip side, a C8 radiculopathy can get symptoms all the way to the pinky finger.

Note that the pain of cervical radiculopathy from a herniated disc is much worse when the inflammatory disc material leaks onto the nerve root and compresses it. Over time, the symptoms will most likely reduce as inflammatory proteins get released from the herniated disc and dry out.

Diagnosing Cervical Radiculopathy from a Herniated Disc
You can usually diagnose cervical radiculopathy from a herniated disc after you take the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. The doctor might perform a few provocative diagnostics tests, including the Spurling’s test, to confirm a diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy. This test will most likely involve you bending or twisting your head toward the side that aches and seeing if any additional pressure can recreate the symptoms.

If there is a need for more information to confirm the diagnosis, some advanced procedures may be required. the most common procedure is the MRI scan, which uses a magnet to show the cervical spine and examine whether the disc has been herniated to a nerve root.

if you can’t have an MRI due to a metal already being lodged in your body, a CT scan with myelogram might be the perfect option.

Doctor's Advice On If A Herniated Disc Is A Permanent Disability Or Not


Dr. J. Alex Sielatychi