Herniated disc FAQs

Q: What causes a herniated disc?

A: The single biggest underlying cause of a herniated disc is degeneration due to age. The discs lose their elasticity due to natural wear, making it easy for the tough outer layer of the disc to rupture. When this happens, the inner gel-like material can extrude into the spinal canal, interfering with nerves and causing symptoms. In rarer cases, a traumatic injury can cause a herniated disc.

Q: I have back pain and believe I may have a herniated disc. What is the best way for me to get a diagnosis?

A: Seeing your primary care doctor or a spine specialist is the best first step to an accurate diagnosis of a herniated disc. Your physician can perform a thorough examination, review medical history and have you undergo an MRI or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis. Laser Spine Institute offers a free review* of this imagery and reporting to determine if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.

Q: Where should I turn to for help relieving the symptoms caused by a herniated disc?

A: Most patients find success partnering with a physician for a course of conservative treatments like physical therapy, epidural injections or chiropractic care. If you haven’t found meaningful pain relief after several weeks or months of these methods, we suggest you view our page dedicated to herniated disc treatment. There you can learn more about how our minimally invasive procedures can help you get back to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Q: Will existing hardware affect my surgery?

A: Many patients with hardware have successful results with our surgery. Some may even be candidates for hardware removal. We can also remove scar tissue buildup from previous surgery. After reviewing your MRI report, we can give you a better idea of whether or not we would be able to help.

Q: How long is the rehabilitation period after surgery at Laser Spine Institute?

A: The recovery time is shorter than traditional open spine surgery^ because we use a less than 1-inch incision to enter the body. Our procedures push the muscles aside instead of severing them, causing less trauma, scar tissue and surgical blood loss than traditional open back procedures.^ Specific instructions regarding recovery and returning to work are given to each patient by our physicians and staff following surgery.

Q: Can I have a herniated disc and not have any symptoms?

A: Yes. Usually, a herniated disc only causes symptoms if disc material compresses the nerve root or spinal cord. Symptoms of a herniated disc typically include pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the extremities. Local pain and inflammation can occur if the nerves on the disc surface become irritated.

Q: What is the difference between a bulge and disc herniation?

A: The discs in our spine are always under a lot of pressure, and when discs are healthy, the tough outer wall of a disc holds the center in place. A bulge occurs when the interior part of the disc pushes to the point that it begins to break through the layers of the disc wall, causing a bulge with no rupture. This can still be painful if the bulge pinches a nerve in the spinal cord or a nerve root. Disc herniation is more extreme, in which a tear occurs in the outer layer, allowing material from the center to leak out.

Q: What are my treatment options for severe disc damage?

A: Some herniated discs are so deteriorated that the surgical recommendation is disc removal and spinal fusion. In these situations, the best course of action is the removal of the entire disc, using a combination of hardware and bone grafts to stabilize the empty space between the vertebrae. Traditional open back fusions are highly invasive procedures, but for a long time, they were the only option when disc damage was advanced.

Q: Are there less invasive alternatives available to traditional open spine surgery?

A: At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery provides a safer and effective alternative available to traditional open spine surgery.^ Laser Spine Institute’s board-certified surgeons+ can perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures that reduce the high risks of complication^ and difficulties of a traditional fusion. Contact us to learn more about the advantages of our procedures.

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