The nerves that supply your arms leave the spinal cord via small holes between the vertebra either side of the spine. Normally the nerves have plenty of space and are able to supply the arms with power and sensation. If the size of the hole becomes reduced the nerve will become compressed or irritated. This can cause pain that radiates down the arms (radiculopathy), pins and needles, numbness, shooting pains, and can cause muscle weakness.
There are numerous causes including osteoarthritis of the vertebra and irritated facet joints, but the main cause is a herniated disc. The disc is made from a jelly-like centre (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a hard outer ring (annulus fibrosis). The jelly-like center can push against the outer ring.
This may initially cause a bulging of the outer ring of the disc, called a bulging disc. However if there is enough force or if the outer annulus is very worn or damaged, the nucleus may squeeze all the way through. This is called a prolapsed or herniated disc.
Patients with this condition may experience a sudden onset of neck pain during the causative activity, however, it is also common for patients to experience pain and stiffness the next morning. Symptoms are typically felt centrally, on one side or on both sides of the neck.
Treatment for Prolapsed Discs and Trapped Nerves
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Spinal and pelvic realignment
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Exercise programs to stretch, self treat and improve proprioception, balance, strength and core stability
- Biomechanical Assessment
- Neural mobilisation
- Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
- Activity modification advice
- Ice or heat treatment
- Clinical Pilates
- Injection advice