What is a Herniated Disc?
Your spine is much more than just a stack of bones. In between the individual vertebrae is a rubbery spinal disc called intervertebral disc which cushions and lubricates each spinal joint. Discs are round and flat, with a tough, outer layer that contains a jellylike material (nucleus pulposus). Spinal discs act as shock absorbers, and they facilitate movement in the spine. Until they don’t, and one common and painful problem are herniated discs.
As we age, the exterior ring of an intervertebral disc becomes tough and hardened, while the interior remains soft, with the consistency of a jelly. But if the fibrous exterior tears or ruptures, this jelly can leak, or “slip” out. The fluid pushes on the surrounding nerve roots and causes pain, weakness, and numbness. This is called a herniated disc, a ruptured disc, or a “slipped disc.”
Most common causes of a slipped disc could be caused by a traumatic injury, or it may result from normal “wear and tear,” a natural process we call disc degeneration.
Herniated Disc Symptoms
Symptoms of a herniated disc can vary from person to person, and range from mild to severe. Occasionally, a slipped disc may manifest with no outward symptoms at all. Herniated discs mostly happen in your lower back (lumbar spine), and they can also happen in your neck (cervical spine).
Many patients experiencing the signs of a disc herniation don’t realize that the problem is actually in their back. That’s because the pain and symptoms are usually felt somewhere else in the body, and this depends on where along the spinal column the slipped disc has occurred. A leg pain, possibly accompanied by low back pain, may be caused by a herniated disc.
Herniated disc in the neck symptoms:
- Shoulder pain
- Arm pain
- Shooting pain while coughing or sneezing
Herniated lumbar disc symptoms
- Thigh, calf, or foot pain
- Leg pain
- Pain in the buttocks
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Other signs of a herniated disc
- Intense, shocking pain
- Tingling sensations, or “pins and needles”
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle spasm
- Difficulty performing daily tasks, like lifting objects or walking up stairs
Herniated Disc Treatment
Herniated disc pain can clear up on its own with careful home treatment. Avoiding positions that cause pain, performing daily stretching and strengthening exercises, and taking over-the-counter pain medication will usually help after a few days or weeks.
You’ll know when it’s time to call Nuvo Spine for medical advice and treatment options if home treatment hasn’t worked, and your symptoms have lasted for long periods, 6 months or longer (chronic pain). Your pain management specialist will conduct a thorough physical examination, using such techniques as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan and or EMG. An MRI scan is a non-invasive test to get a detailed view of the spinal cord and the soft tissues of your spine. Nerves and discs are clearly visible, unlike an x-ray, to determine the proper diagnosis and the state of disc disease. Once diagnosed, the progress of recommended treatment will be monitored using advanced imaging and innovative nonsurgical techniques, avoiding surgical treatment, to provide pain relief.
Our team specializes in providing minimally-invasive care to patients suffering from herniated disc pain. Studies have shown that 9 out of 10 patients will improve with a conservative approach to care, and in our practice, we’ve found this to be true. Conservative treatments we might try include:
- Physical therapy.
- Herniated disc exercises.
- NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
If we fail to see an improvement in your symptoms, we can look at more advanced options. All of these cutting-edge treatments are proven pain management strategies approved by the FDA, and can be performed right here in our clinic on an outpatient basis.
- Herniated disc epidural injections.
A mixture of steroid medication and anesthetic can reduce inflammation, letting the pressure off of pain-generating nerves.
- Stem cell therapy for herniated disc
Stem cells acquired from your own tissues are injected into the disc, providing the area with the growth factors needed to heal itself.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections for herniated disc.
An injection of your own highly-concentrated plasma boosts healing power in your spinal tissue.
- Intradiscal Electrothermal therapy (IDET).
A procedure in which a catheter is inserted into the disc and heated for about 15 minutes.
- SpineJet™ Hydrodisectomy.
A procedure in which a stream of heated water “washes away” herniated tissue, relieving pressure on the spinal nerves.
These options may not be right for all patients. Your treatment plan will be custom-tailored to your needs and circumstances. Call our office today to schedule your consultation, and take the first steps towards a better quality of life.