Are there different types of herniated discs?
The different types of herniated discs are named based on their location in the spine. Your spine consists of three main regions: cervical, thoracic and lumbar. One reason the spinal column is able to support the upper body and still have a wide range of motion is because of the rubbery discs that cushion the vertebrae. These soft discs allow the lumbar (lower) spine to support so much of the upper body’s weight and the cervical (upper) spine to support and move the head. However, like every other part of the body, these discs wear out with age.
A herniated disc is when the liquid center of the disc spills out into the spinal column through a tear in the outer lining of the disc. This can become a painful, life-affecting condition if any of this material compresses or pinches the nerve tissue that the spine protects. The type and location of symptoms depends largely on the location and severity of the herniated disc.
Types of herniated discs by location
These are the most common types of herniated disc:
- Cervical herniated discs (C1-C7) — between any of the vertebrae numbered 1 – 7 in the neck
- Thoracic herniated discs (T1-T12) — between any of the vertebrae numbered 1 – 12 in the middle back
- Lumbar herniated discs (L1-L5) — between any of the vertebrae numbered 1 – 5 in the lower back
Most herniated discs occur in the lumbar spine because it supports so much weight and movement. A lumbar herniated disc can cause local pain as well as tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the lower body.
A herniated disc in the cervical spine is also common since it supports and moves the head. Symptoms here can start in the neck and travel out to the shoulders, arms and out to the hands. In addition to shooting pain and numbness, your fine motor skills can be affected as well.
A thoracic herniated disc is rare since vertebrae are fixed to the rib cage and do not move. Disc issues here are more often related to traumatic injury like a car accident than age. Symptoms usually travel around to the chest and abdomen.
Laser Spine Institute
Upon diagnosis, herniated discs can often be effectively treated with conservative therapies such as pain medication, physical therapy, hot and cold compresses and spinal injections. Surgery may become a consideration if symptoms still persist after fully exhausting conservative treatments.
Contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute to learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery for the treatment of herniated discs. Our minimally invasive decompression and minimally invasive stabilization procedures are performed on an outpatient basis, offering an alternative to hospital-based traditional open spine surgery.
We can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.