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HealthSheets™

Cervical Spine Problems: Disk

The spine has three natural curves. The cervical curve is located in the neck. It forms the top part of the spine. For this reason, it is also called the cervical spine. This sheet tells you more about the parts of the cervical spine and damaged disks. This is a common problem that can affect the cervical spine.

A Healthy Cervical Spine

The spine is made up of the following:

Image of a healthy cervical spine

  • Vertebrae. These are bones stacked like building blocks that make up the spine. The neck contains the first seven vertebrae of the spine.

  • Disks. These are small pads of tissue that lie between the vertebrae. They help cushion and protect the vertebrae when you move.

  • The spinal cord. This runs through a large central opening (spinal canal) formed by the vertebrae.

  • Nerves. These branch from the spinal cord and carry messages to the body.

  • Foramina. These are smaller openings in the vertebrae. Nerves travel to your arms and other parts of your body through these openings.

Damaged Disks in the Cervical Spine

Top image is of a herniated disk and lower image is of bone spurs

One of the most common cervical spine problems is a damaged disk. A disk may be injured by a sudden movement, causing a disk to bulge or break open (herniate). Or a disk may wear out slowly over time (degenerate). A worn-out disk may become so flat that the vertebrae above and below it touch or slip back and forth. As disks wear out, abnormal bone growths (bone spurs) can form on the vertebrae. Bone spurs can also form in the foramina, causing them to narrow (stenosis). If your doctor suspects that you have a damaged disk, tests may be done to confirm the problem. Your doctor will then work with you to plan treatment as needed.

© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.