Do you Have Simple Neck Pain or a Cervical Spine Disc Herniation?

young woman with neck painNeck pain is common.  We get it from sitting at desks, working out, playing sports, car accidents…the list goes on and on.  For many, the diagnosis is a simple postural strain of the muscles in the neck.  Unfortunately for others, the diagnosis is more complicated.  An example of a more complicated condition affecting the cervical spine is a disc herniation.

A cervical spine disc herniation often presents with neck pain and arm pain.  There may be a reduced sensation in the arm along with numbness, tingling and a feeling of pins and needles.  Weakness may also occur in the arm.

Cervical spine disc injuries are more common in men and mostly occur when people are in their fifties (but not limited to this age group).  It can often be associated with a persons occupation and the demands placed on their neck.  An occupation that requires heavy lifting would be a prime example.

The actual rate of patients requiring surgery (according to the literature) is approximately 26%.  Most people with cervical spine disc herniations don’t require surgery and can be successfully managed in a clinic like Burlington Sports Therapy.

Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Massage Therapy and Athletic Therapy are all treatment disciplines that have the tools necessary to assist patients with this condition.  According to the literature, most patients achieve considerable improvement 4 to 6 months after symptoms start.  Complete recovery can sometimes take a long time though, given the nature of what is happening to the cervical disc.  Complete recovery (according to the literature) can take as long as 24 to 36 months!

In summary, cervical disc herniations are relatively common and are more complicated to treat than simple muscle strains.  Usually, the main distinction between this injury and less complicated types of neck pain are the symptoms that occur down the arm.  Although some patients may require surgery, most do not and are successfully treated in a clinic like ours.  The treatments can vary and depend on many factors (too many to list in this blog)!  Under normal circumstances, significant improvement and relief can be found in the early stages of treatment.  Again, according to the literature, it is common for the “tail end” of recovery, meaning the last nagging bit of pain, to be a little stubborn and take longer.


Wong J, Côté P, Quesnele J, et al. The course and prognostic factors of symptomatic cervical disc herniation with radiculopathy: a systematic review of the literature. Spine Journal 2014; 14(8): 1781-9.

Radhakrishnan K, Kitchy WJ, O’Fallon M, Kurland LT. Epidemiology of cervical radiculopathy: a population-based study from Rochester, Minnesota, 1976 through 1990. Brain 1994; 117: 325–35.

Côté P, Cassidy JD, Carroll LJ, et al. The annual incidence and course of neck pain in the geal population: a population based cohort study. Pain 2004; 112: 267–73.