Cervical Disc Prolapse and Radiculopathy - Fact Sheet
What is it?
The spine is made up of linked segments of bone called vertebrae. In between each vertebra is a ‘spongy’ disc. The disc consists of a central sac of fluid the ‘nucleus’, surrounded by a layered ring of ligaments the ‘annulus’. The disc acts as a cushion for your spine, as well as allowing movement between each segment to provide the spine with flexibility. A disc prolapse occurs when nuclear material comes all the way through the annulus, so that that it is no longer contained within the annular ligaments.
How does it this happen?
A number of things can contribute to a prolapse, which could include
• Prolonged sitting and or prolonged poor postures – Can degrade the annulus over time
• Poor lifting technique – Increases the pressure inside the disc and pushes the nucleus back against the ligaments
• Muscular weakness and poor neck stability – Can expose the spine to an increased amount of stress which may cause the rupture.
Diagnosis & Investigations
To confirm diagnosis of prolapse, an MRI can be ordered, helping determine the location of the prolapse & whether there is nerve or spinal cord. A physiotherapist or MD Health Exercise Physiologist can help perform the relevant clinical tests to determine the severity of your symptoms, and tailor your exercises to help centralise your symptoms.
Treatment of Disk Prolapse?
Hands-on-treatment: Cervical traction can help centralise the disc fluid and take pressure off the exiting nerve roots. This can also help centralise any symptoms down the arms, over time. Targeted stretching as tolerable can also help improve the positioning of the disc fluid. Manual therapy should not be solely relied upon, as evidence suggests this works mainly in the short term, giving 2-3 days relief.
Exercise: However, an exercise regime focusing on muscle strength and core stability is the most important part of treatment, as this will optimize the muscular support and stability and minimize the amount of pressure placed on the lower back.
A positive attitude! These issues can take some time to resolve, particularly if you have been battling it for a few months. Don’t get disheartened! You WILL get better!