A herniated disc diagnosis usually requires more than a cursory examination by a primary care physician, and the prognosis varies widely depending on the severity and location of the intervertebral disc that is affected by degeneration or the aftermath of an injury. For example, lower back pain and other symptoms in the lower extremities might be caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine (the L1-L5 region). A herniated disc in the cervical region, on the other hand, (C1-C8) can give rise to neck pain and other symptoms that affect the upper body. A physician, therefore, will likely start the diagnostic process by asking the patient to describe their symptoms in detail, including where those symptoms occur and if any activities tend to make symptoms better or worse.
A herniated disc causes potentially debilitating symptoms when extruded inner disc material makes contact with nearby spinal nerve roots. These symptoms – pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness – often prompt a patient to seek help from a physician, who might end up making a herniated disc diagnosis if the condition is verified via:
- Questions about the patient’s medical background to try to determine whether the patient’s family history includes herniated discs or other degenerative spine conditions
- A physical exam, with local palpation, to help pinpoint the location of the herniated disc
- Medical imaging, including an MRI or a CT scan, to confirm the diagnosis and determine its severity
Once the physician has confirmed a herniated disc diagnosis, the patient can begin to consider the available treatment options suggested by the physician. A conservative approach is often sufficient, including specialized herniated disc exercises, hot and cold therapy, medication and epidural steroid injections to alleviate the pain. However, if these non-surgical treatments do not provide adequate relief, the physician may suggest a surgical option to relieve chronic herniated disc symptoms.
When surgery is the next step for a patient, the award-winning surgeons and staff at Laser Spine Institute are here to help. Where traditional open back disc surgery has been the standard treatment in years past, Laser Spine Institute instead offers a variety of minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that have relieved pain for many thousands of people worldwide. Living with a herniated back disc should not be your burden to bear, so contact Laser Spine Institute today for a complimentary review of your MRI and CT scan.