Cervical hernia, how to fight it

Back pain can become a disabling disease. Here’s how to deal with one of its causes, cervical hernia.

Described as the medical disaster of the twentieth century, it represents the most common neuromuscular disease, affecting up to 84% of the world’s population, at least once in their lifetime.

We are talking about back pain, a pathology that, if not addressed correctly, can become a big problem, preventing us from carrying out even the simplest daily activities with serenity.

In most cases, back pain resolves spontaneously after a few days and in some cases presents itself as a temporary discomfort. In others, however, it can last several weeks.

A particular type of back pain is caused by a hernia which, if located at the level of the vertebrae at the base of the neck, is called cervical hernia.

What is cervical hernia?

Hernia is a pathology of the spine, the structure consisting of the spine, muscles and ligaments, which have the task of supporting the head, trunk and protecting the spinal cord.

What allows our back to bend and flex are the structures placed between the vertebrae of the column, the cushions or intervertebral discs. These are real small shock absorbers, consisting of an external fibrous part, which encloses a gelatinous substance, known as the pulpous nucleus.

We speak of hernia when the discs suffer damage that causes the gelatinous material to escape from its natural seat. In turn, this leads to inflammation of the nerve roots and, therefore, pain.

Hernia can affect different areas of the spine:

– cervical, when it affects the vertebrae at the top, near the head and neck

– dorsal, if it is located in the central area of the column

– lumbar, when it affects the lower back.

What are the causes of cervical hernia?

Herniation, i.e. the leakage of the nucleus pulposus outside its physiological site, occurs due to the rupture of the outermost and fibrous part of the intervertebral disc.

In most cases, the causes that determine this rift are:

– wear and tear, due for example to heavy work or sports activities, such as weight lifting

– aging, which causes a gradual loss of elasticity of the discs

– trauma, including whiplash or falls on the back

– abnormal movement, such as excessive jerking or twisting.

How to detect cervical hernia

The symptoms of this pathology may vary depending on age. Mostly, these are:

– localized pain in the shoulder or arm, often very strong, so as to cause a deficit in movement

– numbness and tingling

– weakness, even when trying to grab objects.

To dispel any doubt and identify this disorder with certainty, without confusing it with other pathological problems of the spine, the best thing is always to rely on a specialist, in this case the orthopedist. For the diagnosis of hernia, in fact, a thorough orthopedic examination is often sufficient.

During the clinical evaluation, your doctor will check the condition of your back and may also ask you to perform some movements with your arms, in order to check the mobility of your limbs and thus understand the source of your pain.

It could also consider:

  • Reflections
  • muscle strength
  • the perception of light touches, pinching or vibrations.

Examinations and laboratory tests

In some cases, the doctor may decide to prescribe some additional tests, with the aim of excluding other pathologies of this anatomical district, including for example osteoarthritis.

Among these, CT (computed axial tomography) allows to obtain images of the spine from different angles and therefore to have a complete view of the entire structure.

Magnetic resonance imaging, on the other hand, allows you to evaluate the position of the hernia and visualize where contact with the nerve that causes pain occurs.

Another test that may be necessary is electromyography, or nerve conduction test, which evaluates the passage of the electrical impulse through the nerve fiber, thus allowing to evaluate if and where nerve damage is present.

Conservative approach

One of the first choices in the treatment of hernia is the conservative strategy: drugs are used to reduce pain and inflammation.

These include:


– muscle relaxant medications or medications that reduce pain due to nerve damage

– corticosteroids.

In case this approach does not work, your doctor may advise:

– physiotherapy, which acts with targeted and repeated exercises over time to reduce the origin of pain and to stabilize the hernia

– ultrasound or electrostimulation, to combat pain.


This is a possibility that is recommended only in rare cases, if all conservative approaches fail and if the patient continues to have pain. Or, in case of neurological disorders caused by hernia.

The aim is to re-establish the right distance between the vertebral discs, also through the use of specially designed material, which is inserted through a sort of channel, inside the discs. In this way, it is possible to put an end to the conflict with the nerve structures, thereby avoiding compression of the nerve roots or spinal cord.

The end result is the cessation of pain.

New technologies against hernia

Recently, innovative surgical techniques have appeared in Italian hospitals such as:

– full endoscopy spine surgery )

– minimally invasive microsurgical surgery.

The latter intervenes on all pathologies of the spine, both of the cervical tract and of the dorsal or lumbosacral tract. The advantages for the patient are several:

  • Barely visible wounds and scars
  • Faster intervention and hospitalization times
  • shorter recovery time (work, physical activity and sports).

Ozone against hernia

In the treatment of hernia the novelties are many. Among these, ozone therapy, which consists of injecting oxygen and ozone into the intervertebral disc, determining what is called dyscolisis.

In a nutshell, the injected ozone acts on the one hand by reducing the volume of the disc and on the other favoring the formation of new blood vessels, which allow a sort of “renewal” of the intervertebral tissue.

Risk of hernia if…

There are factors that can put the health of our back at risk.

Some people, due to an unhealthy lifestyle or habits, may have a higher chance of developing this disorder, including individuals who:

  • are overweight or obese, because excessive body weight subjects the column, and therefore the intervertebral discs, to excessive stress
  • perform physically demanding work, which involves the assumption of an unnatural position or repetitive movements such as lifting, pulling, pushing, bending, which in the long run can determine premature wear of the discs
  • They are genetically predisposed.

Prevention and healthy lifestyle

Just as there are potentially harmful behaviors that can undermine the good health of our spine, here are some tricks that can help us prevent these disorders:

Exercise Strengthens the muscular system, stabilizing and supporting the spine
Correct posture Reduces disc pressure (keep your back straight when you stay sit for a long time or lift heavy objects so that they are the lower limbs and not the back to make most of the effort)
Keep your weight under control Avoids compression of the intervertebral discs, either through a active life, both by choosing a diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables
Do not exceed with bed rest It can cause the weakening of the muscles and thus complicate the recovery. Better to limit rest during the day to 30 minutes in a comfortable location and alternate it with short walks
Cold compresses In the early stages they can provide pain relief and reduce acute inflammation
Slightly warm compresses Try a few days after the onset of symptoms, to give relief and comfort

Acupuncture and other remedies

For chronic pain, you can also turn to the so-called complementary medicine, but always on the advice of the specialist. In these cases, in fact, it is more important than ever to avoid DIY.

This type of treatment is often recommended to the patient as a support to traditional therapy.

Among the alternative approaches, there are techniques such as:

– chiropractic, which is based on manipulations of the spine to give relief, but more effective in the case of pain at the base of the back, rather than the cervical

– acupuncture, for some time accepted even by traditional medicine, can give a modest sense of relief from chronic pain

– massages

– yoga, to be practiced with caution, to avoid muscle tears that could worsen the situation.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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