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What are the symptoms of cervical (upper spine) degenerative disc disease?

Degenerative disc disease is characterized by a gradual breakdown of the spinal discs due to a loss of water and elasticity. Cervical degenerative disc disease, which affects the discs in the upper spine (neck), can cause symptoms that stem from several sources. One is a damaged disc, which can be painful in and of itself. Another is a spinal nerve root that is irritated or pinched by disc material that bulges out of its proper position in the spinal column and possibly even breaks open (herniates). Degenerative disc disease is very common and often develops as part of the natural aging process.

Symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease in the upper spine

Cervical degenerative disc disease can cause two main types of symptoms:

  1. Localized neck pain. Some people experience a persistent dull ache and stiff neck, while others have sharp pains that come and go, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Oftentimes, the pain worsens with movement and improves with rest.
  2. Cervical radiculopathy. A pinched or irritated nerve in the neck can cause pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations that travel from the neck through a shoulder and down the corresponding arm, hand and fingers. Typically, nerve pain affects only one side of the body.

Additionally, it is possible for a damaged disc in the cervical spine to put pressure on the spinal cord. If this occurs, symptoms can develop in the lower body as well. For instance, some people experience balance and coordination issues that affect their ability to stand and walk.

With that said, it is also possible for degenerative disc disease to be completely asymptomatic. In fact, many people are able to live comfortably with the condition for years, and some remain completely unaware of it for their entire lives.

Surgical treatment for degenerative disc disease

While surgery is generally viewed as a last resort for treating cervical degenerative disc disease, some people ultimately decide to pursue surgical treatment in order to improve their quality of life. If you’ve tried nonsurgical therapies for several months but have not achieved meaningful symptom relief, you may want to learn about your surgical options. When you’re ready, contact USA Spine Care. We can provide a free MRI review* to help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery.

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