Herniated Disc

What Is a Herniated Disc?

Located between our spinal bones are a series of rubbery discs that serve as shock absorbers and ligaments to support our vertebrae. These discs contain a jelly-like substance on the inside called the nucleus. A herniated or slipped disc occurs when the rubbery exterior of the disc ruptures, allowing the nucleus to push through the tear. While some herniated discs exhibit no symptoms, some irritate the surrounding nerves and cause pain, numbness, and weakness.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

Depending on the location of the impacted disc along the spine, the symptoms may manifest differently. A slipped disc in the lumbar area will typically cause pain in the thighs, buttocks, and calves. It may also be felt in the feet. On the other hand, a herniated disc near the neck will most likely cause discomfort in the shoulders and arms. These symptoms tend to become aggravate when moving, changing positions, or even sneezing and coughing. Other symptoms include:

  • Numbness on one side of the body
  • Pain down the arms or legs
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling & burning sensations

Causes of Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the disc’s exterior weakens or tears, allowing the nucleus to slip out. The most common cause of this condition is natural wear and tear that occurs as we age. Traumatic injuries and using the back to lift heavy objects can also lead to herniated discs. Other risk factors include excess weight, working in physically demanding jobs, genetics, and smoking.

While most cases of herniated discs are mild and can be easily treated, others can be more complex and cause debilitating amounts of pain. These more severe cases can reduce your range of motion and significantly lower your quality of life. We recommend seeking medical attention if your symptoms worsen or if you experience bladder or bowel dysfunction.

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Herniated Disc Diagnosis & Treatment

Our interventional pain specialists will perform a thorough physical examination during your visit and diligently review your symptoms, family, and medical history. Your physician may order a series of tests such as blood work, X-rays, MRIs, discograms, and CT scans to rule out other possibilities. These steps will help ensure that there are no other underlying conditions.

Once a successful diagnosis has been reached, one or various forms of treatment may be recommended. Most mild cases of herniated discs are treated with healthy exercise plans, physical therapy, and over-the-counter medications. Severe cases may require more advanced treatment plans such as transforaminal epidural steroid injections, epidural steroid injections, intrathecal pain pumps, and surgery. If you or anyone you know is experiencing herniated disc symptoms, we encourage you to reach out to our team of specialists.

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