Herniated Disc Symptoms & Treatment Options

disc herniation pressing nerveA herniated disc (also know as bulging disc, ruptured disc, or slipped disc) occurs when a portion of the vertebral disc ruptures.  Through the ruptured portion, the inner central portion of the disc (nucleus pulposus) is pushed out into the spinal canal on nerves in the cervical, thoracic or lumbar areas.  Because the spinal canal has limited space, the displaced disc presses on the nerves which can often lead to numbness and pain.  Smaller herniation are sometimes called protrusions.

The most common causes of disc herniation include:

  • Degeneration due to normal aging process
  • Trauma or injury
  • Episode of heavy lifting
  • Sudden twistingstages of a herniated disc

Common Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

  • If the herniation occurs in the upper back (cervical spine), you may experience discomfort, shooting pains, burning pain and weakness or numbness in one or both arms
  • If the herniation occurs in the lower back (lumbar spine), you may experience discomfort in leg, ankle or foot; shooting pain, weakness or numbness in the leg.  Furthermore, the leg pain is usually worse when sitting.
  • Muscle weakness, numbness or tingling are very common when there is disc herniation.

Herniated Disc Diagnosis

lumbar herniation diagnosisMost people tend to think that they simply walk off a physical problem, but there is a moment when the pain and the interruption of your daily activities bring you to the doctor since you want to understand why and what to do.  Well, for  a proper disc herniation diagnosis, your orthopedic doctor will ask you questions and perform some tests in order to locate the source of your pain and pinpoint the herniated disc.

Your doctor will execute a neurological exam in order to test sensitivity, reflexes, muscle strength, nerve reactions, and pain spread.  This is very useful for both the doctor and the patient to understand the type of pain or source of it.  For example, a patient may experience leg pain; but after some tests, he’ll understand that this is a Radicular Pain that can originates in a lower spine where the herniated disc is pressing on the sciatic nerve that travels down the leg.

To confirm (and visualize) a herniated disc, some imaging test may be ordered by your doctor such as X-Rays, MRI or CT Scan. X-Rays are used to pretty much rule out physical abnormalities of the spine. Typically, x-rays are not used alone to diagnose herniated discs.  A CT Scan and an MRI can show soft tissue of a herniated discs showing the actual stage and location of the herniation for a proper treatment.

At Spine & Orthopedic Center, our facilities have experienced orthopedic doctors and surgeons with several years of experience treating herniated discs, but state-of-the-art in-house equipment as well for proper and efficient diagnosis such as digital X-Rays, MRI equipment, Laboratory and Procedure Suite.

Disc Herniation Treatments

The possible treatment for a herniated disc are evaluated and discussed only after a careful examination, tests and proper diagnosis.  There are always non-surgical and surgical options to treat a herniated disc which depends on the degree of the herniation and the patient’s response to the non-invasive treatments.

Non Operative Treatments

Medications and non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy are sometimes needed.  Occasionally epidural injections are indicated for pain relief (and sometimes diagnosis).  Surgery can be considered for those who do not improve with a more conservative approach.

One of the basics approach of physical therapy when treating a herniated disc is targeted stretching and constant exercises for rehabilitation and to strengthen the back muscles. Epidural injections are often considered to provide pain relief so the patient can continue with the rehabilitation process.

Surgical Treatments

Nowadays, most surgical procedures to treat herniated discs are minimally invasive and do not require hospital stay. As a matter of fact, SOC is well known for its success rate in treating herniated disc.  The following are the most common surgical procedures for disc herniation:

Anterior Cervical Discectomy Fusion Instrumented

The ruptured disc is removed. It is then replaced by a bone graft. An anterior cervical plate is implanted for stability.

Posterior Cervical Laminotomy

The spinous process and lamina are removed to decrease pressure on the spinal cord. Instrumentation may be used to increase post-operative stability.

Lumbar Partial Discectomy

Removal of herniated portion of the disc relieves the pressure on the painful nerve.

For more information on herniated discs and possible treatment options, call our specialists at 1-888-409-8006