Herniated disc overview

A herniated disc is a degenerative spine condition that can lead to chronic pain, taking you away from your life and the activities you enjoy. Herniated discs mainly happen from regular wear and tear due to age, but can also be caused by a traumatic injury in some cases. Your lifestyle choices — such as smoking, nutrition and exercise — also play a role in their development.

Herniated discs are usually treated with a combination of nonsurgical, conservative treatments. Surgery only becomes a serious option when other methods have not brought relief.

The spine

The vertebrae are cushioned by rubbery discs at nearly every level. These discs separate the vertebrae, allowing for flexibility and movement. There are two main parts of a disc: a soft, gel-like center (nucleus pulposus) and a harder outer shell (annulus fibrosus). A herniated disc occurs when pressure from the center of the disc causes a tear in the weakened exterior, allowing for disc material to extrude.

While a herniated disc is not necessarily painful by itself, debilitating and painful symptoms can occur in two main ways:

  • Local pain develops in the disc if nerve tissue on the surface is irritated.
  • If any disc material comes into contact with the spinal cord or nerve roots in the spine, pain signals can be sent through the body.

This second cause of symptoms is the one most patients experiencing pain due to a herniated disc seek treatment for. This nerve compression can cause burning pain and muscle weakness throughout the body and can be the reason why a herniated disc can disrupt your life.


If you are experiencing pain as a result of a herniated disc, you doctor will usually first prescribe a course of conservative treatments. These may include the application of heat or ice, the use of anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, stretching techniques or rest. In the event that several months of conservative treatment fail to provide you with the pain relief you’re looking for, surgery may then be considered.

If you have been recommended as a candidate for open back surgery but are concerned about some of the associated risks and long recovery time*, you may be glad to know that there are less invasive surgical options.

Laser Spine Institute has minimally invasive options for both decompression and stabilization surgeries. Our minimally invasive stabilization is a safer and more precise approach to fusion surgery, if you have serious disc damage in your spine. Contact us today to learn more and to talk to our team of caring professionals about a review of your MRI report or CT scan.

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