Long Term Effects of a Herniated Disc in Neck – Prevention

As a specialized neuromuscular physiotherapist, I always prescribe patients to take care of spinal conditions. because it can lead to chronic illness if spinal diseases are untreated. Many patients after car accidents should look after the long term effects of a herniated disc in neck.

I’ll try to discuss all of the possible long term effects of a herniated disc in the neck that can interfere with individual daily living. Also, I’ll explore different therapeutic methods that can reverse or control the long term effects of a herniated disc in neck.

Long Term Effects of a Herniated Disc in Neck

So let’s begin with the understanding of a herniated disc, A herniated disc in the neck, also known as a cervical herniated disc or a slipped disc, can have long term effects on an individual’s overall health and quality of life. When the soft inner core of a spinal disc pushes through the outer layer and presses against the surrounding nerves, it can result in various symptoms and complications. Here are some of the potential long term effects associated with a herniated disc in the neck.

Chronic Neck Pain

One of the most common long term effects of a herniated disc in  neck is chronic neck pain. The pressure exerted by the herniated disc on the nerves can cause persistent discomfort, stiffness, and limited mobility in the neck. This ongoing pain can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform daily activities and may require long term management.


A herniated disc in the neck can compress the nearby spinal nerves, leading to a condition called radiculopathy. Radiculopathy refers to the pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling sensations that radiate along the path of the affected nerve. Depending on the location of the herniated disc, radiculopathy can occur in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. If left untreated, radiculopathy can become chronic and affect the individual’s strength and dexterity.

 Muscle Weakness and Atrophy

 Prolonged pressure on the nerves caused by a herniated disc can lead to muscle weakness and atrophy in the affected area. This occurs when the muscles connected to the affected nerves do not receive proper signals, leading to a gradual loss of strength and muscle mass. Muscle weakness can have a long term impact on an individual’s mobility, coordination, and overall physical performance.

Nerve Damage

If a herniated disc in the neck is left untreated or if the compression on the nerves is severe, it can result in long term nerve damage. Nerve damage can cause persistent pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in the affected areas. Depending on the severity and location of the damage, nerve-related symptoms may be experienced in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.

Functional Limitations

The long-term effects of a herniated disc in the neck can lead to functional limitations in daily activities. Individuals may find it challenging to perform tasks that require neck movement, such as turning the head, lifting heavy objects, or maintaining certain postures for an extended period. These limitations can impact work productivity, participation in physical activities, and overall quality of life.

Psychological Impact

Dealing with the long term effects of a herniated disc in neck can also have a psychological impact on individuals. Chronic pain, functional limitations, and the potential disruption of daily activities can lead to emotional distress, anxiety, depression, and a decreased sense of well-being. It is crucial for individuals to seek appropriate support and coping strategies to manage the psychological impact of their condition.

How to overcome Long-Term Effects of a Herniated Disc in the Neck

I regularly see patients who have been told by another doctor that they need neck surgery to prevent further degeneration of their neck. Some of these patients are very frightened by what their doctor told them. Some were told that if their symptoms progressed, they could risk permanent damage to their ability to function, maybe to the point of paralysis.

To prevent the chronic long term effects of a herniated disc in neck, you require special care. There are many therapeutic methods that can help relieve herniated disc symptoms and control chronic illnesses. As a specialized neuromuscular physiotherapist, I will explore some approaches that can help treat the condition. 

Physical Therapy

One of the effective treatment approaches that can help to relieve the chronic effects of herniated discs in Physical therapy., Physical therapy involves specific exercises and techniques that aim to improve mobility, reduce pain, and strengthen the surrounding muscles. A physical therapist will tailor the treatment plan to suit individual needs, focusing on stretching, strengthening, and improving posture.

In a herniated disc, the nerve is pinched in the spinal vertebrae. A physiotherapist can help relieve pressure on the nerve and decrease the long term symptoms of radiculopathy, such as pain, numbness, and tingling along the nerve pathway. 

One common exercise is cervical traction, which gently stretches the neck to relieve pressure on the affected disc. Additionally, range-of-motion exercises and isometric exercises can help increase flexibility and build strength. Patients usually attend physical therapy sessions a few times a week, and the duration of the treatment varies depending on the severity of the herniated disc. You can try some exercise for neck at home, but it is important to consult expert physiotherapy before trying any physical activity to avoid any side effect.

More Importantly Also Learn About : Cervicogenic Headache Exercises You Can Do At Home

Pain Medications

Pain medications can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Muscle relaxants are another option to relieve muscle spasms that may occur due to the herniated disc.

It is important to note that pain medications only offer temporary relief and should not be considered a long term solution. They may have side effects and should be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Epidural Steroid Injections

Epidural steroid injections deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly into the epidural space surrounding the spinal nerves. These injections can provide significant pain relief for patients with a herniated disc in the neck. The corticosteroid medication reduces inflammation, thereby relieving pressure on the affected nerves and reducing pain.

The procedure involves the use of fluoroscopy to guide the needle to the targeted area. Multiple injections may be required, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Although epidural steroid injections can provide relief, they are not suitable for everyone and should be discussed with a healthcare professional.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, including herniated discs. Chiropractors use manual adjustments to restore proper alignment and mobility of the spine, which can help alleviate pain and reduce nerve compression.

Learn About : How Can A Chiropractor Help A Pinched Nerve

Chiropractic adjustments for a herniated disc in the neck involve gentle manipulations of the cervical spine. The treatment aims to reduce pain, improve range of motion, and enhance overall spinal health. However, chiropractic care may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with severe herniated disc symptoms or underlying health conditions.


Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. It is believed to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and promote pain relief. Acupuncture can be an effective complementary therapy for managing the pain associated with a herniated disc in the neck.

During acupuncture sessions, the practitioner targets specific meridians and acupoints related to neck pain and inflammation. The treatment is generally well-tolerated and may require several sessions for optimal results. However, it is important to consult a licensed acupuncturist and discuss any potential risks or contraindications.

Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy are simple and cost-effective ways to relieve pain and reduce inflammation associated with a herniated disc in the neck. Applying heat, such as a warm towel or heating pad, can help relax muscles and increase blood flow to the affected area. Cold therapy, using ice packs or cold compresses, can help reduce swelling and numb the area to alleviate pain.

It is recommended to apply heat or cold therapy for about 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day. However, it is essential to protect the skin and avoid extreme temperatures to prevent burns or frostbite.

When you are taking any of the above therapeutic treatment sessions, it is important to monitor your recovery and disc healing signs. To understand and monitor nerve regeneration, read this full guide on pinched nerve healing signs. These signs will help you understand whether you are using good treatment for recovery.

Lifestyle Modifications

Making certain modifications to our daily routines and habits can go a long way toward promoting spinal health. Here are some lifestyle modifications that can be beneficial:

Maintain Proper Posture

Maintaining proper posture is crucial for spinal health. When sitting or standing, ensure that your shoulders are relaxed, your back is straight, and your head is aligned with your spine. Avoid slouching or hunching forward, as this can strain the neck and upper back muscles.

Take Frequent Breaks

If you have a job that requires prolonged sitting or computer work, it’s essential to take regular breaks. Every hour, try to stand up, stretch, and move around for a few minutes. This helps alleviate the strain on your neck and back and improves blood circulation.

Use Ergonomic Furniture

Investing in ergonomic furniture can make a significant difference in maintaining spinal health. Consider using an ergonomic chair that provides proper support for your back and promotes good posture. Additionally, use an adjustable desk that allows you to position your computer at eye level, reducing strain on your neck.

Adjust Your Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position can impact your spinal health, particularly your neck. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can strain your neck and spine. Instead, try to sleep on your back or side with a supportive pillow that keeps your neck aligned with your spine.

Stay Active

Regular physical activity is essential for overall health, including spinal health. Engaging in exercises that strengthen the core muscles, such as yoga or Pilates, can improve posture and reduce the risk of neck-related issues. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.


It’s important to note that the long-term effects of a herniated disc can vary from person to person, depending on factors such as the severity of the herniation, individual health, lifestyle, and treatment received. Prompt medical intervention, including physical therapy, pain management, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention, can help alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term complications.

If you suspect you have a herniated disc in your neck or are experiencing symptoms associated with it, you can consult Dr Khadija for a free neck pain assessment. She, as a specialized neuromuscular physiotherapist, can assess herniated disc symptoms. 


Can a herniated disc in the neck heal on its own?

In some cases, a herniated disc in the neck can heal on its own with conservative treatment such as rest, physical therapy, and medication. However, it is advisable to seek medical attention for a proper diagnosis and guidance on the most suitable treatment approach.

Can lifestyle modifications help manage the long-term effects of a herniated disc in the neck?

Yes, certain lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining good posture, regular exercise, weight management, and avoiding activities that strain the neck, can help manage the long term effects of a herniated disc in  neck. It is best to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist for personalized recommendations based on your condition.


  • Dr Khadija

    DPT | MS Pain Management | Intra-articular Injec Specialist | Acupuncturist | Cupping Therapist | Oncology Pain Specialist | Certified Chiropractor 🇬🇧 | Medical Writer | Author