Causes and treatment options for herniated disc pain

It’s not uncommon for patients to have herniated disc pain that comes and goes. While some patients’ symptoms may fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, other patients’ symptoms may change from position to position, finding relief in one sitting or standing position and not in another.

Herniated disc symptoms that fluctuate could be a sign that the damaged disc in your spine is not severe. A severely herniated disc tends to apply constant pressure on a pinched nerve root, while a mildly herniated disc may only apply pressure to the nerve in certain positions.

For this reason, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to begin conservative treatments for pain relief that will reduce the need for spine surgery. Read on to learn more about the cause of a herniated disc and the treatments available for fluctuating symptoms associated with this condition.

What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc occurs when a disc in the spine is squeezed between two vertebrae, causing the outer wall of the disc to tear open and the disc’s nucleus to pour into the spinal canal. As the two vertebrae surrounding a disc begin to clamp and squeeze the disc in between them, the pressure from the inner disc fluid will build against the outer wall of the disc, eventually tearing the wall of the disc and escaping into the spine, resulting in a herniated disc.

This condition is often caused by the natural deterioration of the spine, which weakens and dehydrates the discs, making them prone to herniation. Other causes of a herniated disc could include:

  • Trauma
  • Injury
  • Obesity
  • Genetics

Why do herniated disc symptoms fluctuate?

Herniated disc pain often fluctuates when part of the disc’s nucleus or torn disc material enters the foraminal canal — the space between the vertebrae where nerve roots can exit the spine.

As the spine bends, the spaces in the foramina change their shape and size. Bending forward (flexion) makes the foramina slightly larger while bending backward (extension) causes the foraminal space to become smaller. Therefore, bending forward provides a larger opening for the spinal nerve roots and may relieve pain, while bending backward restricts the space around the nerve roots and could cause nerve compression.

How can I relieve my herniated disc symptoms?

For many patients, conservative therapies such as physical therapy and pain medication are effective in reducing pain and increasing the overall strength and health of the spine. However, if these nonsurgical methods have proven ineffective for you, your doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive procedures offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery.^

Many of our patients with a herniated disc benefit from our minimally invasive decompression surgery, though some instances of a herniated disc necessitate a stabilization procedure. The decompression surgery relieves tension on the pinched nerve by removing a small portion of the herniated disc, while the stabilization surgery simply replaces the herniated disc with an artificial disc to stabilize the spine.

To see if you qualify for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a no-cost MRI review* to see if our minimally invasive techniques would be effective in relieving your herniated disc pain.

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