Cervical disc degeneration is a common cause of neck pain, most frequently felt as a stiff neck. Cervical degenerative disc disease is much less common than disc degeneration in the lumbar spine because the neck generally is subjected to far less torque and force. Nonetheless, a fall or a twisting injury to the disc space can spur degeneration, and accumulated wear and tear on the disc over time can also lead to neck pain caused by disc degeneration.
Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease Pain and Symptoms
In addition to having the low-grade pain of a stiff or inflexible neck, many patients with cervical disc degeneration have numbness, tingling, or even weakness in the neck, arms, or shoulders as a result of nerves in the cervical area becoming irritated or pinched.
For example, a pinched nerve root in the C6-C7 segment could result in weakness in the triceps and forearms, wrist drop and altered sensation in the middle fingers or fingertips.
Cervical disc degeneration can also contribute to spinal stenosis (more specifically, the development of cervical stenosis) and other progressive conditions, as well as a more sudden disc herniation.
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Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease Diagnosis
Successful diagnosis of cervical degenerative disc disease begins with a physician reviewing the patient’s history of symptoms and performing a physical examination to measure neck extension and flexibility. During the exam, patients may be asked to perform certain movements and report whether the neck pain increases or decreases.
If a physical exam warrants further investigation, imaging studies such as X-Ray, MRI and possibly a CT scan will be taken. These diagnostic images can confirm whether and where degeneration is occurring, and can identify other conditions (such as calcification or arthritis) that could be causing the symptoms.