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Cervical Disc Displacement


A cervical disc displacement occurs when there is a herniation or protrusion between discs in the spine. The bones that form the spine, referred to as vertebrae, feature discs between each bone to protect and allow for flexible movement of the back. One common phrase used when describing a cervical disc displacement is “slipped disc”. Though a disc displacement can occur anywhere along the spine, a cervical disc is referring to the neck portion of the spine.


While anyone is susceptible to cervical disc displacement, the condition is most common in younger individuals. Factors include:

  • Under the age of 40
  • Lifting heavy items
  • Stress caused by vibrational equipment or jobs, such as a jackhammer or long-distance driving
  • Accidents, particularly when whiplash is involved
  • Poor diet and exercise
  • Smoking increases risk of disc displacement


Back injuries are often painful and restrict movement. Slight disc displacement may cause minor discomfort, while larger herniated disc can increase pain. Symptoms to look for include:

  • Back pain
  • Weakness in the spinal area or along the neck and shoulders
  • Limited mobility of hands and arms
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain in the legs, usually associated with larger disc displacement


When you experience any of the symptoms associated with disc displacement, your doctor can ask a variety of questions, in addition to a physical exam, to determine if you have a displaced disc. Other ways to determine a diagnosis include:

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • X-Ray
  • Computerized Tomography (CT Scan)
  • Questions about pain in the cervical portion of the spine


Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend a few treatment options. For slight disc displacement, rest is often suggested to determine if the symptoms subside. If the symptoms do not go away after a prescribed period of rest, rehabilitation through a physical therapist may be required. Stretching of the spine, known as traction, can be done by a physical therapist to relieve tension on the discs between the vertebrae.


While cervical disc displacement symptoms usually improve with time, surgery may be necessary if the disc is causing moderate to severe pain and/or causing pressure on the spinal cord. Discectomy, a procedure to reduce the herniated disc, is often a final resort.