How does a herniated disc occur?

Herniated discs can occur as a result of a sudden accident or injury, although most herniated discs are caused by age-related changes to the discs and the regular wear and tear they endure. The spine is made up of 24 individual vertebrae, each one cushioned by a disc on either side. The discs have a thick outer wall (annulus fibrosus) and a soft inner core (nucleus pulposus). As a part of the natural aging process, the discs gradually lose their water and protein content, becoming brittle and prone to small tears. If a tear becomes large enough, some of a disc’s inner core can leak out. This is known as a herniated disc.

Herniated disc treatment

Herniated disc treatment depends on the type and severity of symptoms the issue is causing. While herniated discs can be painful on their own, they can cause additional discomfort if the leaked disc material compresses a nerve root. In some cases, it’s even possible for herniated disc material to press against the spinal cord itself. Symptoms can vary based on which parts of the spine are directly affected by a herniated disc. Some people feel nothing at all, others will experience minor numbness or tingling and still others will have constant pain and muscle weakness.

In most cases, these symptoms can be controlled with conservative (nonsurgical) treatments. With a wide range of conservative therapies to choose from – pain medications, epidural steroid injections, physical therapy and hot/cold compresses are just a few examples – patients can often find a combination that effectively minimizes their herniated disc pain. However, in situations where the pain persists or gets worse despite numerous attempts at conservative treatment, patients may wish to discuss surgery as a potential next step.

Herniated disc surgery

There are two main approaches to herniated disc surgery: a traditional, open method or a minimally invasive technique. At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgeries on an outpatient basis, using only small incisions. Our minimally invasive procedures are offered as alternatives to open neck or back operations, which can have higher complication rates and more scarring.^ To find out if you’re a candidate one of our herniated disc procedures, contact us today.

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