The definition and anatomy of a ruptured disc

A ruptured disc is also known as a herniated or prolapsed disc. Discs in the spine are composed of two parts, an outer layer known as the annulus fibrosus and an inner gel-like core known as the nucleus pulposus. As a person ages, the disc wall deteriorates and weakens. Pressure from the gelatinous center may cause the ring to bulge outward. If the tough outer wall develops a tear, the inner core of the disc may extrude through this tear, resulting in a ruptured or herniated disc.

Symptoms for most ruptured discs begin with conservative measures. Most symptoms decrease with time and conservative therapy. If symptoms are severe and/or do not resolve with conservative treatment, consult your doctor for a complete medical review. Read on to learn about the symptoms associated with this condition and the treatment options available to get you back to your daily routine.

Source of ruptured disc symptoms

Discs serve to cushion the spine. They act as shock absorbers between the rigid boney vertebrae. Age, misuse and trauma are the most common causes of ruptured discs. When the core gelatinous material extrudes from the disc as discussed above, inflammation arises, causing swelling of both the disc and any adjacent nerve. The herniated portion may also compress the spinal nerves as they exit the vertebral column. This results in:

  • Chronic neck or back pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Fatigue
  • Sciatica
  • Diminished reflexes

Ruptured disc treatment

Treatment for a ruptured disc is usually first attempted conservatively. The goal of treatment is to reduce strain on the spine, preventing further injury and to alleviate symptoms while the healing process takes place. Some of the most common nonsurgical treatments available include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Stretching exercises
  • Massage therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Pain medication
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Epidural steroids
  • Hot or cold therapy
  • Limited rest

If you have been diagnosed with a ruptured disc, it is important to remember that you have options. Visit your doctor to determine the conservative course that is best for you. Should your pain persist through several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may be recommended. If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine procedures that are safer and effective alternatives compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.^

The board-certified surgeons+ at Laser Spine Institute have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain, setting us apart as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Our techniques are muscle-sparing and use a less than 1-inch incision, which allows our patients to get back to their lives faster. To find out if you are a candidate for our outpatient procedures, reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a no-cost MRI review.*