Herniated disc causes — ways the spine can degenerate and sustain injury
To understand what a herniated disc is, you must first understand the general structure of the discs within the spinal column. These discs, which help absorb the shock of everyday movements, are composed of a gelatinous inner core, called the nucleus pulposus, and a tough shell, known as the annulus fibrosus. In perfect working order, these discs are compressed due to pressure, with the core absorbing the impact and the shell pushing the core back into place. Problems can arise when the outer shell begins to lose its flexibility, causing the disc to flatten or bulge after repeated loading. If the inner core begins oozing out of a tear in the outer shell, the disc becomes herniated. In many cases, patients may not even realize that they have a herniated disc until it begins to compress the nerves in the spine, causing pain and other issues.
What leads to a herniated disc?
Usually a herniated disc results from nothing more than the normal aging process. As the body ages, it begin to lose its water content. This drying affects many components of the body, including the discs in the spine. Discs tend to become more brittle as they dry out, which makes the outer layers more likely to rupture because they are less elastic.
Getting older isn’t the only way someone can develop a herniated disc, however. They can also be brought on through trauma or repeated strain, as seen in many athletes. A recent notable example is Bobby Parnell, a major league baseball pitcher who had to sit out for multiple games due to a herniated disc in his neck.
How can a herniated disc be treated?
No matter the cause, herniated discs are generally treated with a conservative approach by physicians at first. The goal is that patients will respond to stretches, exercises, physical therapy sessions or pain medications positively. If a full round of conservative treatments have left you feeling the aching, weakness and numbness you were feeling before, your doctor may begin to look at surgical options. This includes open back surgery, as well as the minimally invasive techniques used by the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is often the clinically appropriate surgical first choice and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery, such as smaller incisions, lower infection and complication rates, and faster recovery periods.
To learn more about herniated disc treatment and our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our Spine Care Consultants can provide you with more information regarding our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgeries.