Intervertebral discs serve as cushions between the bones of the spine. These discs are made up of a tough outer layer with a softer gel-like center. Spinal discs can bulge or herniate, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. Herniated discs can occur anywhere on the spine, including the neck, mid-back, and low back.
Causes of disc herniation may be categorized as degenerative, mechanical, or traumatic. Degenerative, or wear and tear, is the most common cause. Recurrent strain on the spine leads to small tears on the outer layer of the disc. This can lead to an increased risk of herniation. Additionally, with age, our discs become less fluid-filled and the surrounding structures may be affected by arthritic changes.
For some, herniated discs may go unnoticed as they experience virtually no pain. In more severe cases, pain may travel from the neck or back to the shoulders and arms, or into the buttocks and legs, depending on the location of the affected disc. Pain can often be relieved with conservative treatments such as physical therapy. Our team of physicians and therapists will work with you to determine a plan that is ideal for your lifestyle.
- Numbness or tingling in arms or legs - usually just on one side
- Pain in areas supplied by affected nerves.
- Weakness of muscles supplied by nerves affected
- Degenerative, or wear and tear, is the most common cause. Age and recurrent strain on the spine lead to small tears that increases risk of herniation and rupture.
- Mechanical includes activities such as excessive strain while lifting a heavy object.
- Trauma to the back, such as a fall or car accident, can result in disc herniations (although this is rare)
- Improper lifting that results in excessive strain
- Occupations that require frequent heavy lifting, pulling, or pushing tasks
- Excess weight
- Evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon or interventional physiatrist (nonsurgical spine specialist)
- Description of your symptoms and medical history
- X-ray to evaluate for proper disc height and the presence of arthritic change
- MRI to show potential soft tissue damage
- Electromyography and nerve conduction tests to detect ongoing nerve damage as a result of compression or irritation from a herniated disc
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