What is a torn disc? Overview and treatment options

If you or a loved one has a torn disc, also referred to as a ruptured or herniated disc, you’re probably familiar with the pain and discomfort this spinal condition can cause. Symptoms caused by this condition can take you away from the people and activities you love and make basic activities difficult. If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition and are looking for lasting relief, educating yourself as a patient is an important, but often overlooked, part of the treatment process. The following information can help you make a more informed decision about your treatment and give yourself the best chance of getting back to an active lifestyle.

The anatomy of a spinal disc

In order to understand the causes of a torn disc, it can be helpful to learn more about how the spine works. The spinal discs cushion the vertebrae and absorb the shock caused by everyday movements. Each disc is composed of two parts: a tougher outer layer, and a center that is made of mostly water and protein. Both parts undergo a number of degenerative changes as a person ages. The exterior of a disc can become less elastic, while the soft interior can lose water content. These changes make the discs more vulnerable to the stresses placed on them every day, leading to damage such as bulging, tearing and herniation.

Torn discs and aging

As we age and our discs begin to degenerate, our risk for developing a torn disc increases. A disc tear may not be painful by itself, with symptoms usually developing as a result of inner disc material pushing through the tear and irritating or compressing spinal nerves. When this occurs, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain (either dull or sharp)
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle spasms or cramping

Treating a torn disc

A number of conservative treatment options are available, such as pain medication, exercise, physical therapy and extended rest, which have provided many with relief from the uncomfortable symptoms that are often associated with a torn disc.

If your symptoms have not improved after weeks and months of conservative treatments, your doctor may refer you to a surgical specialist to evaluate whether you are a candidate for surgery. Before consenting to a particular procedure, consider the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization surgeries are often the clinically appropriate first choice compared to traditional open neck and back surgery and offer many benefits to our patients.^

Contact us today to learn more about our treatment options for a torn disc. Our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.