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Herniated Disc Q & A

What is a herniated disc?

Spinal discs are the soft tissue structures nestled between each pair of vertebrae in your spine. Discs have a durable, fibrous outer ring called an annulus and a gel-like inner center called a nucleus.

Sometimes, the annulus ruptures or becomes damaged and fragments of the nucleus get pushed out through it into the spinal canal. This condition is known as a herniated disc. 

A herniated disc can create pressure on the surrounding spinal nerves, causing pain and other symptoms. Those can occur in any part of the spine, but are most common in the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine).

What causes a herniated disc?

Age is the main reason that the disc annulus wears out, weakens, and ruptures, allowing the nucleus to become herniated. Additional factors that contribute to the condition include:

  • Degenerative disc disease

  • Sudden or improper standing up

  • Repetitive strenuous activities

  • Spinal injuries

  • Being overweight

  • Smoking

What symptoms accompany a herniated disc?

Typically, a herniated disc is “announced” by intermittent episodes of low back pain, numbness or weakness. These symptoms are more intense if the disc is pressing on a nearby nerve and may be felt in any of the following ways: 

  • Back pain

  • Neck pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Hip pain

  • Radiating pain

  • Tingling or numbness

  • Muscle weakness

  • Muscle spasm

In addition, a herniated disc is one of the most common causes of sciatica, a condition resulting from the compression of the large sciatic nerve that emerges from the hip and extends down the back of the leg. The most telltale sign of sciatica is a sharp, shooting pain that originates in your lower back and radiates out through your leg, occasionally even reaching your foot. 

What treatments can address a herniated disc?

At Legacy Brain & Spine Clinic we always consider a conservative approach to treatment first. This means we will attempt to eliminate your pain through non-surgical, non-invasive means before recommending surgery. Depending on the cause and severity of your condition, those options may include:

  • Physical therapy

  • Aquatic therapy

  • Traction (a form of decompression therapy that involves stretching the spine, using a special table)

  • Epidural steroid injections

  • Facet joint injections

Only if a non-surgical approach does not resolve your pain, or if you have already tried such pathway with no results, will our physician team evaluate the optimal surgical approach to correct your herniated disc. Whichever the case, rest assured that you will be in good hands – our highly experienced spinal surgeons are specialized in performing minimally invasive outpatient procedures that result in less pain, less scarring, and shorter recovery times compared to conventional “open” surgery.

If you believe you are suffering from a herniated disc, remember that you don´t have to accept living with chronic pain. If you are searching or ready for a solution, reach out to us today and let us restore your health, comfort, and motion. 

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