Herniated disc diagnosis

A herniated disc diagnosis typically involves many steps, requiring a relatively involved examination by your doctor. The course of treatment will be dependent on the severity and location of the spinal disc affected by degeneration or the aftermath of an injury. For example, lower back pain and other symptoms in the lower body can be caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine. While a herniated disc in the cervical (upper) region can cause neck pain and radiating symptoms in the upper body.

How a doctor reaches a herniated disc diagnosis

A doctor will generally start the diagnostic process by asking the patient to describe their symptoms in detail, including where those symptoms occur and if any activities tend to make them better or worse.

A herniated disc causes potentially debilitating symptoms when extruded inner disc material makes contact with nearby spinal nerves. These symptoms — pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness — often cause a patient to seek help from a doctor or specialist, who will usually take the following steps to determine the underlying cause:

  • Questions about the patient’s medical history to determine whether herniated discs or other degenerative spine conditions run in the family
  • A physical exam, with local palpation, to locate symptoms potentially caused by a herniated disc
  • Medical imaging, including an MRI or a CT scan, that may be able to clearly show the source of symptoms, whether it’s a herniated disc or other spine condition

Treating a herniated disc

Once a herniated disc diagnosis has been confirmed, doctors usually recommend an initial course of conservative treatment. Methods may include specialized exercises, hot and cold therapy, medication and epidural steroid injections to relieve the pain. However, if these nonsurgical treatments do not provide adequate relief, a surgical option to relieve chronic herniated disc symptoms may need to be considered.

When surgery seems like the next step for a patient, the surgeons and staff at Laser Spine Institute are here to help. Although traditional open back disc surgery has been the standard treatment in years past, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative.^

Living with a herniated disc in the neck or back does not have to put you on the sidelines of your life. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.

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