Cervical Disc Herniation

A disc herniation is a rupture of the disc material between the bones of the spine (vertebra).   A spinal disc is a pad that serves as a cushion between each vertebra.  Discs are designed like jelly donuts, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior.  A herniated disc, sometimes called a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when some of the softer “jelly” pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.

Cervical Herniation Image
A cervical disc herniation may originate from trauma or injury to the cervical spine, but symptoms often start spontaneously.  Arm pain from a cervical herniated disc results because the herniated disc material pinches or presses on a cervical nerve, causing pain to radiate along the nerve pathway down the arm. Along with the pain, numbness and tingling can be present down the arm and into the fingertips.  Muscle weakness may also be present.

Symptoms: A cervical herniated disc will typically cause pain patterns and neurological deficits as follows:

  • C5 (C5 nerve root): Can cause weakness in the deltoid muscle in the upper arm. Does not usually cause numbness or tingling. Can cause shoulder pain.
  • C6 (C6 nerve root): Can cause weakness in the biceps (muscles in the front of the upper arms) and wrist extensor muscles. Numbness and tingling along with pain can radiate to the thumb side of the hand. This is one of the most common levels for a cervical disc herniation to occur.
  • C7 (C7 nerve root): Can cause weakness in the triceps (muscles in the back of the upper arm and extending to the forearm) and the finger extensor muscles. Numbness and tingling along with pain can radiate down the triceps and into the middle finger. This is also one of the most common levels for a cervical disc herniation.
  • T1 (C8 nerve root): Can cause weakness with handgrip. Numbness, tingling and pain can radiate down the arm to the little finger side of hand.