More often than not, a herniated disc will produce no symptoms at all. Frequently, a disc herniation will “heal” on its own through a process known as resorption, and the patient will remain oblivious to the presence of extruded disc material in his or her spinal canal. However, if the gel-like nucleus material seeping through a tear in the fibrous outer wall makes contact with an adjacent nerve root or the spinal cord, a herniated disc can become a seriously debilitating condition that requires medical attention.
What are the symptoms?
A herniated disc can occur at any level of the spine, but is most common within the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. This is because the relative stability of the thoracic (middle back) region subjects those discs to far less wear and tear than that experienced by the more mobile neck and lower back regions. If the gel-like nucleus material comes into contact with a nerve or the spinal cord, the following symptoms can be produced:
- Pain at the site of the nerve compression
- Pain in regions of the body innervated by the pinched nerve
- Numbness or tingling in associated regions of the body
- Muscle weakness in the arms or legs
- Paralysis associated with cauda equina syndrome in the lower back – see a doctor immediately
Treatment for symptoms associated with a herniated disc
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, conservative treatments such as pain medication, exercise, behavior modification or epidural injections typically can provide adequate relief. However, if chronic symptoms persist after weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery might become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the many benefits of the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed by our surgeons.