Torn disc in the back

A torn disc is more common than many people realize. The spinal discs cushion the vertebrae, making neck and torso movement possible. However, a disc can destabilize over time due to age-related dehydration, and may become susceptible to bulging and tearing. A torn disc occurs when pressure causes the fibrous outer layer to split apart, almost like the fabric of a shirt. This can be the beginning of conditions like ruptured and herniated spinal discs, when the soft inner material leaks out into the spinal column.

Back pain related to conditions like a torn disc can make life extremely difficult. Work, time with loved ones and even the ability to get a good night’s sleep can all suffer if symptoms become chronic. However, treatment that returns you to a full, active life is possible and the following information can help you better work with your doctor or specialist to get the relief you deserve.

Where can a torn disc occur in the spine?

The spine has three regions: the cervical (upper), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower). A torn disc, also known as a herniated or ruptured disc, may occur in any of these regions, but the cervical and lumbar regions are the most common locations for this condition to develop. This is due to the wide range of motion the neck and lower back have, as well as the amount of pressure the body’s weight puts on these areas. The thoracic region, in contrast, is not required to be as flexible as the rest of the spine, and is connected to, and supported by, the rib cage.

A torn disc can be a very painful condition. Nerves near the outer layer of the disc can be irritated by the tear, resulting in pain at the site of compression. Displaced disc material can also cause nerve compression which can lead to radiating symptoms throughout the body. Nerve compression in the lumbar region, for example, can affect the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs and feet. These are some of the typical symptoms experienced by patients:

  • Shooting, burning pain along the length of the nerve
  • Muscle weakness which can cause limping
  • Tingling and numbness

Many patients diagnosed with a torn disc in the back are able to find relief from a doctor-prescribed course of conservative treatment methods such as anti-inflammatory drugs, exercise and massage therapy. Surgery may become an option if conservative treatments are exhausted without a return to normal daily activities.

Laser Spine Institute

If you are considering surgery but have concerns about the hospitalization and risk of complication involved with traditional open spine procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery uses muscle-sparing techniques to give our patients a shorter recovery time^ with less risk of complication when compared to traditional open neck or back procedures.

For a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient procedures, reach out to one of our Spine Care Consultants today.