Herniated Nucleus Pulposus FAQ | Frequently Asked Questions

If you or your physician believe that you might be suffering from a herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP), you may be wondering what exactly that is and what to do next. Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) from our patients who have this condition.

Q. What is a herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP)?

A. For all intents and purposes, a herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP) is the same thing as a herniated intervertebral disc. In fact, the name is a bit of a misnomer — it is not the nucleus pulposus which herniates (breaks open), but rather the annulus fibrosus (the durable outer wall which surrounds and protects the delicate inner nucleus). Together, these two components of an intervertebral disc work to provide support and absorb shock for the spine. Despite the aforementioned technicality, we will still be referring to this condition as “HNP” in this article for the sake of brevity and clarity.

Q. What causes a herniated nucleus pulposus?

A. A number of different factors can contribute to the gradual degeneration of the intervertebral discs that cushion and support our spine. This pathologic process is known as “degenerative disc disease,” and it can eventually lead to HNP and other related conditions. Some cases are idiopathic, which means that no direct cause is known. Even healthy people can develop a herniated disc or HNP. There are some known risk factors that contribute to this condition. Among them are age, obesity, lack of physical activity, cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. The symptoms of HNP can vary in character and location, depending on the extent of the herniation and which intervertebral disc(s) have been affected. Also, additional symptoms can arise because of a variety of secondary conditions that are caused by the disease process, such as sciatica. Most patients with a symptomatic herniated disc report experiencing pain, numbness, tingling and/or muscle weakness in their arms, legs, thighs, neck or buttocks. The location of these symptoms varies depending on which part of the spine is been affected.

Q. What are some treatment options?

A. Treatments for HNP can include any exercise or therapy which strengthens the muscles supporting the spine, because a well-supported spine is a healthy spine. Additionally, your physician may recommend that you try assuming different postures when sleeping, sitting or standing to relieve the pressure on your back. Finally, many patients swear by yoga, and their position is well-supported by medical evidence.

Q. Will I need surgery?

A. Most people with HNP do not require any surgery, as long as they seek the professional advice of a qualified physician as soon as possible after experiencing symptoms. Your physician will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan so that your body can adjust to the degenerative changes in your spine. However, if conventional methods prove ineffective in relieving your symptoms, your physician may recommend surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for an initial consultation. Our Care Partners are ready to provide any advice or assistance that you might need, and our surgeons have perfected the techniques of minimally invasive spine surgery.

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