Disc herniation and aging

Disc herniation is closely related to aging. As we grow older, our bodies begin to slow down and years of wear can begin to take their toll. This deterioration happens within the spine as well, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the amount of support and flexibility it provides to the body. As the spine wears down, discs can dry out and thin, joints can become arthritic and bone spurs can develop.

These are the natural degenerative changes that lead to the development of herniated discs. In fact, you can live with a herniated disc for years and not experience symptoms. It is only when the disc puts pressure on spinal nerves that pain is experienced and most people seek treatment.

Anatomy of disc herniation

In a healthy spine, the vertebrae are cushioned by thick, spongy discs. These discs act as shock absorbers and provide much of the flexibility the spine needs to function. The discs themselves consist of a fibrous outer layer and a gel-like center. As a person ages, the discs lose water content and the outer layer thins and weakens. A herniated disc happens when the inner layer pushes hard enough against the outer layer for it to rupture, causing fluid to leak out.

In many cases a herniated disc causes little or no symptoms, especially at first. But if any disc material compresses the spinal cord or a nerve root exiting the spine, the pain and mobility problems associated with the condition will occur. Some of the most common symptoms caused by this nerve interference include:

  • Local pain in the neck or back
  • Burning pain that radiates along the affected nerve
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness or diminished reflexes
  • Fatigue
  • Soreness or stiffness

Treatment for disc herniation

If you are experiencing neck or back pain as a result of disc herniation and aging, visit your physician to learn about which conservative treatments may be effective for treating your condition. In many cases, a combination of options like rest, alternating use of a heating pad with ice packs, medication and physical therapy provide lasting relief. Finding the right course of treatment can take some trial and error, which is why doctors generally recommend fully exploring nonsurgical methods before turning to surgery.

Should your pain continue, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how one of our minimally invasive spine surgeries may be able to help you find relief from neck and back pain. While some herniated discs can be treated with a minimally invasive decompression surgery, which removes only a small portion of the damaged disc, severe cases of herniated discs can require spine stabilization due to the large amount of tissue that needs to be removed. This can be accomplished with our minimally invasive stabilization surgery — a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine fusion.^

To find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost review of your MRI report or CT scan.*

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