Herniated disc FAQ — frequently asked questions about herniated discs

If you’ve been diagnosed with a herniated disc, then you likely have a number of questions about this spinal condition, its causes and treatments. While your doctor should be the person to talk to about your specific condition and treatment options, this article can provide information about herniated discs in general to help you be a more informed and engaged patient.

Herniated disc causes and symptoms

Q. What is a herniated disc?

A. A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc, one of the spine’s shock absorbers, develops a crack or tear in its outer shell that allows the disc’s inner fluid to escape.

Q. What causes discs to herniate?

A. Most herniated discs are caused by the degenerative changes that occur in the spine as part of the natural aging process. After years of supporting body weight and facilitating movement, the discs can become less flexible due to natural loss of water content, making them prone to herniating.

Q. What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

A. Surprisingly, some patients with herniated discs experience no symptoms at all. While the crack in the outer layer can cause localized pain and inflammation, severe symptoms typically only occur when the inner material enters the spinal canal and compresses a spinal nerve, nerve root or the spinal cord itself. When this occurs, symptoms can include pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness that radiates into the limbs.

Treatments for herniated discs

Q. How are herniated discs treated?

A. Many patients are advised to use hot/cold therapy, get plenty of rest and take medication to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Some patients are also recommended physical therapy and epidural steroid injections. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, improving posture or quitting smoking may be advised as well.

Q. Does the condition ever require surgery?

A. In the event that nonsurgical treatments fail to relieve a patient’s herniated disc symptoms, his or her doctor may recommend surgery. This typically only occurs after the patient has undergone conservative treatments for several weeks or months only to have received little to no pain relief.

Q. Are there any alternatives to herniated disc surgery?

A. Some patients may be candidates for minimally invasive procedures as alternatives to open neck or back surgeries for herniated discs. These procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis with the use of muscle-sparing techniques. The minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgery at Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 75,000 patients since 2005, while offering less risk of complication and a shorter time compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

To learn more about herniated discs and the latest treatment options, contact Laser Spine Institute. We would be happy to answer your questions and tell you about the minimally invasive treatments we offer to help you find relief from your neck or back pain.

If you’d like to find out if you’re a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our caring and dedicated team and ask for your no-cost MRI or CT scan review.*

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