Arm pain caused by a cervical herniated disc is one of the more average cervical spine conditions people suffer. Such pain is eliminated by spine specialists. The condition usually manifests itself at the age of 30 – 50. A herniated disk may be damaged through some kind of trauma or injury of the cervical spine, but the violation symptoms usually start spontaneously (overnight). People may experience the arm pain caused by a cervical herniated disc, as the cervical nerve is pressed by the herniated disc material, causing pain in the whole arm. In addition to pain, a person feels tingling sensation in his arm (including fingertips), as well as muscle weakness. There are two main levels in the cervical herniate spine: these are the C5–C6 level (cervical 5 and cervical 6) and the C6-C7 level (cervical 6 and cervical 7). The less common levels are the C4–C5 level and the C7 – T1 level. The nerve that is violated by the disc herniation is the one exiting the spine at that level, so at the C5-C6 level the C6 nerve root hurts.
Symptoms of the nerve violation
A cervical herniated disc usually cause pain and neurological problems in the following ways:
- C4 – C5 (C5 nerve root) – Can cause weakness in the upper arm deltoid muscle. This violation does not usually cause tingling sensations, but can trigger shoulder pain;
- C5 – C6 (C6 nerve root) – Can cause the biceps weakness (muscles in the front of the upper arms) and wrist muscles. Numbness and tingling sensations (in addition to pain) can spread to the thumb side of the hand. This is one of the most common levels where cervical disc herniation occurs;
- C6 – C7 (C7 nerve root) – Can cause weakness in the triceps (muscles from the back of the upper arm to the forearm) and the finger muscles. Numbness and tingling sensations (in addition to pain) can spread down the triceps and end in the middle finger. This level is also a typical one for a cervical disc herniation;
- C7 – T1 (C8 nerve root) – Can cause weakness with handgrip. Pain, numbness and tingling sensations can spread down the arm to the little finger.
It is important to emphasize that the above mentioned pain patterns are typical but not absolute. All people are individual and their organisms differ, and therefore the symptoms may be different. There is a few disc material between the vertebral bodies in the cervical spine, so usually these discs are not very big. However, the space available for the nerves is also of a small size, which indicates that even a small disc herniation may damage the nerve and cause relevant pain. The most severe pain is usually observed when the nerve becomes pinched for the first time.
Typically, we may control the pain from a cervical herniated disc with non-surgical treatments – usually this may be enough to releave the patient’s condition. Once the pain starts to alleviate, it is unlikely to come back, although the weakness and numb/tingling sensations may be saved for some time. If the pain alleviates, the patient may continue the treatment with conservative methods, as there is no proved evidence that surgery helps the nerve root to recover quicker. All treatments for a cervical herniated disc are basically developed to help resolve the pain and eliminate neurological symptoms.