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Healthy discs between the vertebrae in your neck are filled with fluid and provide space between the vertebrae.
When the discs deteriorate, they become thinner, more brittle and bulge out. If the outer lining of the disc tears, everyday activities can cause the fluid to leak out, further narrowing the space between the vertebrae and causing nerve root compression.
Doctors refer to a leaking disc in the neck as a slipped, or ruptured, or herniated cervical disc.
Healthy Cervical Disc
Cervical Herniated Disc
When a disc herniates, the leaking fluid may push out against the nearby spinal nerves or the spinal cord. This causes pain, weakness, and numbness in your neck, shoulders, or arms. Your pain can vary from dull, aching, and difficult to localize, to sharp, burning, and easy to pinpoint. The type and location of pain and symptoms depend on which disc has herniated and how it is pressing against your spinal cord and nerve roots.
The diagnosis of a herniated disc begins with a complete physical examination of the neck, arms, and lower extremities. Your doctor will examine your neck for flexibility, range of motion, and signs that suggest that your nerve roots or spinal cord are affected by a herniated disc.
You may be asked to fill out a diagram that asks where your symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness are occurring. X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.