Herniated Discs

Overview

The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae that are separated by spongy, flat cylinders called intervertebral discs. These discs are what allow your spine to bend while also acting as shock absorbers. When one of these shock absorbers gets damaged, it is called a herniated disc. This condition is sometimes referred to as a ruptured or slipped disc. A herniated disc in the low back is sometimes called sciatica.

The disc is made up of two main parts: the firm outer layer and the soft inner layer. When a disc is herniated, the outer layer can tear, causing the inner layer to bulge, leak or break off and place pressure on nerves roots in the spine, which can cause pain.

Herniated Disc Causes

Herniated discs can be caused by trauma that tears or cracks the outer layer of the intervertebral disc. You can also develop herniated discs due to aging, because intervertebral discs lose their sponginess and flexibility as we grow older.

Symptoms

  • Low back ache
  • Pain, numbness or weakness in other areas of the body depending on where on the spine the disc has herniated. You may experience shooting or radiating pain in your arms, leg or neck
  • Loss of bladder and/or bowel control
    • If you have these symptoms, seek medical help immediately at your nearest emergency room or hospital
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Loss of range-of-motion

Herniated discs can also be asymptomatic. Some studies have shown that up to 20 percent or 30 percent of people who have never had back pain were found to have a herniated disc show on MRI studies.

Diagnosis

First step toward a herniated disc diagnosis is a physical exam by one of our specialists at Coastal Spine. This condition can also be diagnosed by X-ray, MRI, CT scan or EMG.

Treatment

At Coastal Spine, we provide herniated disc treatments in a variety of ways:

  • Physical therapy: Often, herniated discs can be treated non-surgically by strengthening the muscles of the back and neck through guided physical therapy exercises.
  • Medication: An anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed to help reduce the pain and swelling associated with a herniated disc.
  • Surgery: If surgery is required for a herniated disc, treatment can often be provided in an outpatient setting with a minimally invasive surgical procedure. More than 95 percent of patients can have herniated discs removed in this manner.  The procedures are completed either in our spine dedicated surgical center or the local spine accredited hospital.