What is a Dislocated Disc in the Neck?

Rebecca Mecomber
Rebecca Mecomber
An X-ray of the neck, including the cervical vertebrae.
An X-ray of the neck, including the cervical vertebrae.

A dislocated disc in the neck, sometimes called a slipped neck disc or herniated neck disc, is a rupture of a disc in the spinal column in the neck. The ruptured neck disc bulges out from its normal position between the neck vertebrae and presses on the nerves in the spinal column. Depending on the rupture, neck pain from a dislocated disc might range from moderate to severe.

A dislocated disc in the neck can cause significant pain.
A dislocated disc in the neck can cause significant pain.

The bones of the spinal column, called vertebrae, extend from the base of the skull, down the back and into the pelvic region. Between each vertebra are small, soft cartilaginous discs filled with gelatinous nucleus tissue. These discs cushion the vertebrae, preventing the bones from rubbing together and allowing for flexible body movement. With a dislocated disc, one or more of the cervical discs bulge out from their position. There normally exists a small amount of space between the cervical disc and the spinal cord, but a severe neck disc dislocation will cause the disc to compress against the sensitive spinal nerves.

A dislocated disc refers to a rupture of a disc in the spinal column.
A dislocated disc refers to a rupture of a disc in the spinal column.

Causes of neck disc dislocation vary. A traumatic spine injury from an accident or fall might jar the vertebra and weaken the muscles that hold the spinal column and discs in place. Repetitive strain or overexertion might cause a neck injury that causes a dislocated disc. Degenerative or congenital diseases such as scoliosis and spinal stenosis might affect the spine and cervical discs.

A gel pack can be used to soothe pain associated with a dislocated disc in the neck.
A gel pack can be used to soothe pain associated with a dislocated disc in the neck.

Symptoms of a dislocated disc in the neck include shocking jolts of pain in the neck or arm where the slipped neck disc presses on the cervical spine nerves. Numbness, tingling and muscle weakness may occur. Most of the time, the dislocated disc will heal itself. A medical professional might prescribe analgesics and rest.

In a severe cervical disc injury or cervical spine degenerative disease, the nucleus tissue in the disc is compressed or dried up. Vertebrae chafe against each other, causing inflammation and extreme pain. In these cases, steroidal pain treatments or spinal surgery might be necessary.

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