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 spine (in the lower back) to support so much of the upper body’s weight and the cervical spine (in the neck) to support and move the head. However, like every other part of the body, these discs are prone to wear and tear. As they deteriorate with age, they can bulge out or even rupture and herniate.
A herniated disc is when the soft, 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 depend largely on the location and severity of the herniated disc.
The three types of herniated discs
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
- Lumbar herniated discs (L1-L5) — between any of the vertebrae numbered 1-5 in the lower back
- Thoracic herniated discs (T1-T12) — between any of the vertebrae numbered 1-12 in the middle 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, but it also can be the source of tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the lower body as well.
A herniated disc in the cervical spine is also common since it supports and moves our heads. Symptoms here can start in the neck and travel out to the shoulders, arms and even 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
Contact the knowledgeable staff at Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the different types of herniated discs, or for a review of your MRI or CT scan. Our minimally invasive spine surgery, including our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures, is a safer and effective alternative for herniated discs compared to traditional open back procedures.