Basic overview of a herniated disc

A herniated disc can lead to debilitating symptoms that can get in the way of your ability to lead a good quality of life. While this is a relatively common condition, many people diagnosed with a herniated disc may not know exactly what this condition is. The following information can help you be a more educated patient who is able to make an informed decision about treatment.

What is a herniated disc?

The discs of the spine cushion the vertebrae and help absorb the impact that walking, running and other daily activities place upon the neck and back. These discs are composed of two elements, a tough outer shell and a gelatinous core. Over time, the outer layer can become brittle and lose the elasticity that allows it to keep its shape. Sometimes, this shell can begin to bulge or even break open, and the core can be pushed out into the spinal column, resulting in a herniated disc. This condition can cause local pain and irritation as well as radiating symptoms that are the result of displaced disc material putting pressure on nearby spinal nerves. These symptoms can vary depending on which nerves are affected, so they can range from back pain to weakness in an arm to shooting, electrical sensations traveling down the legs.

Causes and treatments for a herniated disc

A herniated disc can have many causes, with the natural aging process being a primary contributor. As we get older, our bodies begin to dry out, which can cause the discs to lose elasticity. This makes them more susceptible to conditions like bulging or herniation. Other causes and risk factors include:

  • Genetics and family history
  • Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Poor posture

If you have a herniated disc, your doctor will likely recommend that you address the condition through conservative means, such as exercising, undergoing physical therapy and taking over-the-counter pain medications. If weeks or months pass without any noticeable improvement in your herniated disc symptoms, however, surgery may be recommended.

As an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, Laser Spine Institute provides minimally invasive spine surgery. Our board-certified surgeons+ use muscle-sparing techniques to access the spine, resulting in a streamlined outpatient experience that provides many advantages to our patients.

For a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our caring team today.