A herniated disc is defined as a disc in which the center gelatinous core has extruded through a tear in the disc’s fibro-elastic containment rim. Most herniated discs remain undiscovered because they generate no symptoms. Symptoms occur only when the extruded core intrudes upon neural tissue. Understanding a bit about spinal anatomy will help to better comprehend what a herniated disc is, which makes it easier to follow a customized treatment plan.
Anatomy of a Herniated Disc
Intervertebral discs are natural shock absorbers between the boney vertebrae. Discs have two main components, an outer fibro-elastic containment rim and an inner soft gelatinous core. When axial loading pressure occurs along the spinal column, the central gelatinous core of the disc squeezes outward against the fibro-elastic containment rim of the disc. The elastic recoil of the containment wall pushes the gelatinous core back into position reestablishing, the height and shape of the disc. As a person ages, natural daily activity causes repeated loading of the disc. Tiny tears may develop in the fibers of the fibro-elastic outer containment wall. This causes some loss of the disc’s outer containment wall elasticity or recoil. The outer disc containment wall can no longer push the central core material back into shape as effectively. The outer containment wall sags, and is said to bulge or collapse. If the tear in the fibro-elastic containment rim is of significant size, the central gelatinous material may escape through the containment rim causing disc herniation. However, this is not what causes symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain. The extruded disc material may occupy space normally containing nerve. This may happen centrally into the vertebral canal or more laterally into the intervertebral foramina, open canals through which spinal nerves travel. Ultimately, neural compression results and causes the discomfort associated with herniated disc.
Conservative treatment is the initial management. Examples of typical treatments are rest, pain medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. If conservative treatments do not provide the symptom relief required, surgical treatment is often recommended. To avoid unnecessary risks and side-effects, patients should determine the least invasive efficacious surgical treatment possible. The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute specialize in minimally invasive, outpatient spinal procedures that have helped tens of thousands of people recover spinal health without undergoing traditional open spinal surgery.
Endoscopic technology allows the surgeon to visualize the exact location of disc damage, and then repair or remove the extruded disc material using tiny specialized instruments. Minimally invasive endoscopic surgery requires less anesthesia. Because only a small incision and specialized tissue retractors are used, little surrounding soft tissue is damaged, greatly shortening recovery time. Contact LSI today for more information on how to treat a herniated disc, and for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.