There are two main reasons why a cervical herniated disc is not as common as a herniated lumbar disc. First, there is not much disc material located in the cervical spine. Second, there is not much force applied along the cervical spine in comparison to the lumbar section of the spine. A herniated cervical disc can be very debilitating and complex to treat.
Cervical disc herniations occur in the neck. In the area of the cervical spine, the pain radiates from the neck down the arm into the fingers. Symptoms can affect the back of the skull, the neck, shoulder girdle, scapula, shoulder, arm and hand.
Approximately 90 percent of disc herniations occur in the lumbar area. Although disc herniations are most commonly diagnosed in the lumbar region, cervical herniated discs occur in about one in ten patients. A lumbar herniated disc can cause pain to radiate all the way down the legs and into the foot.
The human spine is comprised of five different segments: the cervical spine; thoracic spine; lumbar spine; sacrum; and coccyx. Each segment supports a different part of the body. The spine is able to accomplish its many tasks in large part because of a soft cushion of cartilage in between each vertebra which acts as padding to absorb the pressures of everyday movement.
It is because of these soft, oval “discs" that the lumbar spine (in the lower back) is capable of supporting much of the body weight and the cervical spine (in the neck) can support and move the head. However, like every other part of the body, intervertebral discs are prone to wear and tear. As the discs degenerate, they can bulge, slip, or even rupture and herniate.
If the discs herniate, there is a risk they will apply pressure or pinch the neighboring nerve roots and spinal cord, which can signal pain or interrupt signals being sent back and forth from the brain to the rest of the body.
There are three main types of herniated discs:
• Lumbar herniated discs. Between the 5 -6 vertebrae in the lower back
• Cervical herniated discs. Between the 7 vertebrae in the neck
• Thoracic herniated discs. Between the 12 vertebrae in the middle back