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C6-C7 Disc herniation

The C6-C7 disc is 6th cervical disc near the lower part of the neck, near the top of the shoulders.

The nerve root that would be affected by the C6-C7 disc herniation controls the arms, the shoulders, the heart, the lungs, and more. When a C6-C7 herniated disc occurs and the C6-C7 nerve root is irritated, the symptoms usually include neck pain and pain in the arms, weakness in the hands and weakness in the arms, shoulder pain, chest pains, uncontrollable sweating, headaches, and possibly more. Many times, this condition can be misdiagnosed.

As with any other herniated disc, a C6-C7 herniation is very painful and uncomfortable. The pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the shoulders, arms and even hands and fingers could all point to this condition.

The Basics of C6-C7 Disc Herniation: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The C6 and C7 are two vital skeletal components that play a huge role in healthy living. They form part of a core system that supports the spinal system, keeping the body firm and strong. It is important to know how to keep these major body players in good shape and correct any potential conditions such as C6-C7 disc herniation.

What are the C6 and C7?

The neck is made up of seven cervical vertebrae which protect the spinal cord. The C6 and C7 are two of these cervical components. They share many structural similarities to the other cervical vertebrae, including the vertebral body and arch, as well as two transverse processes, two facet joints, and one spinous process. Additionally, C7 has a Vertebra Prominens, which is a larger version of the spinous process, and in some extraordinary cases, the vertebrae also feature an extra cervical rib.

Due to the position of the C6 and C7 vertebrae close to the base of the neck, they both serve a vital load-bearing and support function. They are also the most susceptible to becoming herniated.

A herniated disc can refer to any of the discs in the spine that have become damaged and have developed a tear in the wall (annulus fibrosus) of the disc allowing the jelly substance inside to squeeze out of the tear. This can also cause the disc to bulge and pinch a nerve, thus leading to Cervical radiculopathy. The most common cause of a herniated disc is from excessive bending or lifting or trauma. Common symptoms of a herniated disc are neck pain, headaches and arm tingling, pain, or numbness.

C6-C7 Disc Herniation Facts

The C6-C7 disc is one of 23 discs in the spine. The function of each disc is to provide support to the spine and absorb any unexpected impact between the vertebrae.

The C6-C7 disc is formed at the joint between the C6 and C7 cervical vertebrae. The disc itself is a tissue that is composed of a soft gelatinous center called the nucleus pulposus. This core is what allows the spine to extend and maintain strength. It is enclosed within a firm but elastic outer casing known as the annulus fibrosus. The final part of the disc is the cartilaginous endplates between the disc and the next vertebrae.

The C6-C7 Nerve Root

The C6-C7 nerve root extends to the upper extremity via an intervertebral foramen that exists between the C6 and C7 vertebrae. This nerve root controls both muscle and skin in the arm via its sensory and motor roots. Some basic actions like stretching the fingers, contracting the triceps, and moving the elbow and wrists are controlled by the C7 motor roots. The sensory roots send sensations to specific areas that cover the shoulders, arms, and fingers. 

Herniation occurs in the intervertebral disc when annulus fibrosus  is damaged. Without its usual protective covering, the nucleus pulposus leaks into the spinal canal. This leakage is what forms the hernia and can cause severe neck pain. When the hernia comes into contact with the C7 nerve, it can lead to pinching and inflammation. 

C6-C7 Disc Herniation Causes

Cervical herniation can often develop as a result of some trauma or injury to the cervical spine. Herniated discs are not a very common occurrence, and they only become more prevalent with age. Annual reports of herniated discs conditions are generally less than 2%, most commonly among young adults to middle-aged individuals. 

Cervical discs support neck motion and protect the vertebrae from shock. Therefore as time passes, natural wear and tear start to occur. The cartilaginous ligaments connecting the disc to the vertebrae might become less flexible, causing it to tear at the slightest hint of force. 

Common Symptoms and Signs Stemming from C6-C7

Any damage to the C6-C7 disc is most likely to extend to the C7 nerve root, causing it to inflame. The inflammation of this nerve root can lead to many signs of discomfort, which are often the symptoms of a herniated cervical disc, especially the C6-C7 disc. 

The C7 dermatome is one of the common regions to observe signs and symptoms of a herniated C6-C7 disc. This includes feeling a lack of sensation in the palm, index, and middle finger. This condition is termed Cervical radiculopathy and is often accompanied by the experience of radicular pain in this area, where it appears that a hot sensation is spreading from the base of the neck outwards towards the shoulders and fingers.

The herniation of the C6-C7 disc is also likely to affect the C7 myotome, which is the area of skin controlled by the C7 nerve root. This often leads to a weakness in the triceps and general upper arm. The patient might also experience difficulty moving the elbow, wrists, and certain fingers. 

C6-C7 herniated disc recovery time

Once a patient is diagnosed with a herniated C6-C7 disc, multiple options are available for treatment and recovery. For minor symptoms, non-surgical procedures might be sufficient. These include physical therapy, better posture, or pain-reducing over-the-counter medication. 

For major cases, injections and several surgical procedures can be conducted. These will generally require a recovery period before patients can fully head back into their daily activities. This recovery period can vary depending on the time of diagnosis and severity of the condition. For patients who are diagnosed and treated early, a faster recovery rate is often possible. 

The general rule is that recovering patients should avoid strenuous physical activity for at least four weeks following the completion of their procedure. These activities include all actions that involve bending and lifting, as well as extended sitting periods. Rehabilitative and massage therapy are also strongly recommended to accelerate healing and mobility.

C6-C7 pinched nerve exercises

Numerous physical exercises can lessen the effects of a pinched C6-C7 nerve. These exercises vary in intensity and can be performed by anyone, regardless of past fitness history or experience. Low impact exercises are particularly recommended as they involve minimal pain and discomfort while focusing on engaging specific muscles.

Some of the more basic exercises include walking, neck tilts, and rolls, and side bends. It is also advisable to involve the shoulder to relieve tightness in the neck and upper body muscles. Likewise, more agile patients can engage in physical exercise forms that involve the conscious positioning and movement of the body to engage the muscle and skeletal structure. Many Yoga poses would be beneficial in this regard. 

At Deuk Spine Institute, we specialize in minimally-invasive surgical techniques and comprehensive spine treatments to cure back and neck pain. Our world-class physicians are personally invested in the well-being of every patient. Start your treatment with us today by submitting your MRI online for a free remote review to determine your candidacy for surgery. You can also visit one of our locations in-person by calling patient services at 321-255-6670.

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