Treatments for Cervical Disc Disease: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Treat Pain From Cervical Disc Disease on my Own?
There are several things you can do to relieve pain from a herniated disc or
degenerative disc disease. At first, take it easy, and avoid any activities
(such as sports or heavy lifting) that aggravate your neck pain. Apply ice to your
neck during the first 24 to 48 hours -- this will help reduce inflammation and
pain. Wrap the cold source in a towel first to protect your skin, and leave it
on for about 20 minutes at a time. After this period apply heat to the area to
help relax sore and stiffened muscles.
Simple stretching exercises help keep your neck flexible and
reduce stiffness. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory medications -- NSAIDs -- such
as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) can help with the pain, but
read the labels carefully and check with your doctor before using them
What Are the Signs I Need to See a Doctor for Cervical Disc Disease Pain?
See your doctor if your neck pain is intense or persists for more than a
couple of weeks. However, if your pain gets worse or you have numbness or
weakness radiating into your shoulders, arm, or hand, see your doctor
immediately. The doctor will take a complete medical history to find out how
long you've had the pain and what activities intensify or relieve the pain. A
thorough exam will also involve diagnostic tests such as X-ray, magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT scan) to determine whether
you have cervical disc disease, and if so, where exactly the problem is
Should I See a Physical Therapist for my Pain?
A physical therapist can treat your cervical disc disease by evaluating the
tissues and joints of your neck to reduce pain and increase your range of
motion. Physical therapists also use a technique called neck traction, which
gently pulls the head away from the body to open up the spaces between discs
and relieve pressure on the affected disc and nerve. During physical therapy
sessions, the therapist can show you safe and effective exercises, as well as
Is It Safe to Use Over-the-Counter Painkillers?
Though over-the-counter painkillers are generally safe, use them with
caution and only under your doctor's guidance. Taking excessive amounts of
acetaminophen can damage the liver, even at the recommended dose. NSAIDs also
can have side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, and liver and
kidney damage, especially when used for long periods of time. Read the package
directions carefully and don't take any more than the label suggests and your
doctor recommends. Avoid or limit alcohol use if you are taking acetaminophen
or NSAIDs because it can increase the risks of liver problems.