Disc herniation — practical information for lasting relief

A spinal disc herniation, or herniated disc, occurs when a tear develops in the outer lining of the disc, causing inner-disc material to extrude into the spinal canal. Disc herniation doesn’t always cause symptoms, but this condition can be debilitating if displaced disc material comes into contact with a spinal nerve. Symptoms like shooting pain, numbness and muscle weakness can affect every aspect of your life. Leisure activities like golf, time with family or even being able to get a good night’s sleep can all be disrupted.

A great first step in finding lasting relief is to educate yourself as a patient. Learning more about disc herniation and all of the treatment options available for this condition can help you and your doctor work together better to develop an effective plan of care for this condition.

Understanding a herniated disc

Disc herniation is a fairly common condition. As we grow older, the spine naturally begins to break down as a result of everyday activity. In a healthy spine, the vertebrae are cushioned by thick, spongy discs that absorb the shock and pressure from the body’s movement. With age, these discs can dry out and become brittle, making them less able to function normally.

This brittleness can lead to a weakening of the normally tough outer layer, which can cause the disc to bulge out due to pressure from the softer inner layer. This pressure, combined with cracks and tears in the outer layer, can cause the inner material to begin to extrude through, resulting in disc herniation.

Symptoms of nerve compression

One of the primary roles of the spine is protecting the central nervous system as it travels from the brain to the rest of the body. However, because the spine is constructed of a tight arrangement of moving parts, if one of these parts becomes displaced it can easily constrict nerve passageways and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root as it exits the spine. If a herniated disc causes nerve compression, the following symptoms can result:

  • Chronic pain
  • Muscle weakness in the upper or lower body
  • Diminished reflexes
  • Radiating pain along the nerve
  • Numbness or tingling
  • A burning sensation

Treatment options for disc herniation

Upon diagnosis of a herniated disc, treatment is usually first attempted with a combination of conservative treatments. Commonly prescribed options include rest, pain medication, exercise and physical therapy. Surgery is sometimes recommended for patients with severe pain, although this is normally considered a last resort after treatments have been exhausted over a period of weeks or months.

If you have been recommended to undergo surgery but have concerns about the large incision, overnight hospitalization and risk of complication involved with traditional open neck or back procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery using muscle-sparing techniques including a less than 1-inch incision. The result is an outpatient procedure that offers our patients less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

For a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute today.