Can a herniated disc cause muscle spasms?

A herniated disc can cause muscle spasms and pain in the neck or back, as well as radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the upper or lower extremities. While each of these symptoms causes its own level of discomfort, muscle spasms can prove especially irritating to some patients. Read on to learn why some patients experience muscle spasms and what treatments can provide relief.

Function of the spinal discs

To understand why herniated discs sometimes cause muscle spasms, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what the discs in the spine are and what causes them to herniate. The discs are the spine’s shock absorbers and are made up of two materials — the outer shell (annulus fibrosus) and the gelatinous center (nucleus pulposus).

As part of the natural aging process, the tough outer layer can become weak and possibly lose its ability to contain the inner core of the disc. In the event that a disc’s wall cracks or tears, the jellylike center can escape and potentially press against a spinal nerve root or even the spinal cord itself. When a disc’s center seeps through a rupture in the disc wall, it is called a herniated disc.

Causes of herniated disc muscle spasms

A herniated disc can cause muscle spasms for two reasons:

  • Inflammation. The center of the spinal disc contains enzymes that cause inflammation and pain. The muscles sometimes spasm as the result of pain, further contributing to the patient’s discomfort.
  • Micromotion instability. A weakened disc wall is less able to absorb impact and control motion within the spine, which is referred to as micromotion instability. Muscles sometimes spasm in an effort to mitigate micromotion and restore stability to the spine.

Treatments for herniated disc muscle spasms

One of the most common treatments for muscle spasms is over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Reducing inflammation can help relieve pain and, in turn, prevent muscle spasms.

Over-the-counter medications may prove ineffective, so muscle relaxants or narcotic pain relievers are sometimes prescribed. Some patients are also advised to work with physical therapists to strengthen the muscles in the neck and back to provide the spine with additional support and help prevent micromotion instability.

If nonsurgical treatments fail to relieve herniated disc symptoms such as muscle spasms after several weeks or months, a patient might be advised to contact Laser Spine Institute. Our state-of-the-art facilities offer safer and effective alternatives and shorter recoveries compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery and has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain. To find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today and request your no-cost MRI review.*

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