What causes cervical disc disease?

Updated: Apr 16, 2020
  • Author: Michael B Furman, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Dean H Hommer, MD  more...
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HNP results from repetitive cervical stress or, rarely, from a single traumatic incident. Increased risk may accrue because of vibrational stress, heavy lifting, prolonged sedentary position, whiplash accidents, and frequent acceleration/deceleration.

DDD is part of natural aging, but it is also a consequence of poor nutrition, smoking, atherosclerosis, job-related activities, and genetics.

IDD can result from cervical trauma, including whiplash, cervical flexion/rotation injury, and repetitive use.

Cervical radiculopathy results from nerve root compression secondary to herniated disc material, stenosis, or proteoglycan-mediated chemical inflammation released from discs. Smoking and certain occupational activities also predispose patients to cervical radiculopathy.

A study by Abdalkader et al found that of 100 athletes from the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro who, during the games, underwent spinal MRI, 126 cervical discs fell into one of the Pfirrmann disc degeneration grades, I through V. That included 55 discs (43.6%) with mild degenerative changes, 17 discs (13.5%) with moderate degenerative changes, and 1 disc (0.8%) with severe degenerative changes. Cervical DDD was most prevalent among athletes who competed in athletics, boxing, or swimming. [26]

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