Spinal discs are like rubbery cushions between vertebrae in your spinal column. Discs have a soft nucleus and a tough exterior, known as the annulus. Discs essentially act as a shock absorber for bones in your spinal column. A herniated disc occurs when the soft nucleus pushes out and breaks through the exterior. Because there is not enough space in the spinal canal for these herniated disk fragments, this can cause irritation and put pressure on nearby nerves, leading to a variety of issues including pain, numbness, and weakness.
Causes of Herniated Discs
Disc material naturally degenerates as you age. At the same time, the ligaments holding it in place weaken. When degeneration has progressed, even a minor strain or unusual movement can lead to a disc rupture. While many herniated discs are the result of degeneration, they can also be caused by excessive strain or an injury. Further, research seems to indicate that some people are more prone to having a herniated disc and there appears to be some genetic component to it as well. For individuals more prone to having herniated discs, they can sometimes have this issue in several different places.
Symptoms of Herniated Discs
Herniated discs affect people differently but the most common symptoms are arm, leg, sciatica, or neck pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness that can interfere with balance and basic motor skills. For those with a herniated disc in the lower back, pain is often experienced in the buttocks, thigh, and calf. Sometimes, it even extends to the foot. In contrast, for those with a cervical herniated disc, pain is generally most intense in the shoulders and arms. Depending on the type of nerve irritation experienced, herniated discs sometimes cause shooting pain from sudden movements like coughing or sneezing.
Herniated Disc Treatment
Generally, the first line of treatment for a herniated disc involves a combination of nonsurgical treatments. Minimizing activity for a few days or a few weeks will often help the inflammation go down, which in turn reduces the pain caused by nerve irritation or pressure. Additionally, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, pain medications, or muscle relaxants are often part of the treatment plan.
There are also some innovative, minimally invasive procedures that can effectively alleviate pain from a herniated disc including the use of a spinal cord stimulator and epidural steroid injections. Depending on a patient’s response to these treatments, a minimally invasive discectomy might be the best treatment option to fully eliminate the issues and pain caused by a herniated disc.
An endoscopic discectomy is a minimally invasive way to repair areas affected by a herniated disc. Dr. Glaser does this procedure in his Encino, California office and patients are able to return to their daily routine just a few hours after the surgery.
In this procedure, a small incision is made in order to insert a wire to the affected nerve root. A tubular device is then placed over the wire, which enables your physician to use tools to access specific areas. A nerve retractor is used to move the nerve away from the herniated disc, and the herniated disc is then removed. This removal gives the nerve the space that it needs along the spine and eliminates the pain caused by pressure or irritation of the nerve. Once the tube is removed, the area is stitched with one small incision. Generally, patients are able to resume normal activities within a few hours of the discectomy.
This procedure usually results in substantial pain relief for patients suffering from pain caused by a herniated disc pressing on a nerve. Even better, it provides a long-term solution to the underlying issue causing neck or back pain. As a result, for many patients in need of lower back pain treatment, this is an ideal procedure.
If you are experiencing pain from a herniated disc, contact Glaser Pain Relief Center today to learn more about the many innovative treatment options available.