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What is a Herniated Disc?


Our spines are made up of bones called vertebrae and between each vertebra is a disc that acts as a shock absorber. Inside each disc is a soft, gel-like center. A herniated disc, which is also called a ruptured or slipped disc, happens when some of that gel pushes through the tough exterior of the disc, pressing on nearby nerves. This can result in pain, along with numbness and weakness in an arm or leg depending on the location of the herniated disc.

If you’re experiencing back or neck pain that is accompanied by numbness or weakness in an arm or leg, Back Pain Centers of America can help. Give us a call at [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”] and let us match you with a board-certified specialist who can relieve your herniated disc symptoms and help you get back to your active life.

What a herniated disc might mean for you

Herniated Disc Causes and Risk Factors

Most often, disc herniation is the result of the gradual wear and tear that happens as we age. This is called disc degeneration. As we age, our discs slowly dry out and lose their flexibility, making them more prone to tears that can result from something as simple as twisting or straining.

Along with aging, our risk of spinal disc herniation increases by:

  • Being overweight – Excess body weight places extra stress on your spine.
  • Working certain jobs – Jobs that involve repetitive lifting, bending, pushing, pulling or twisting increase the risk of a herniated disc.
  • Having a family history – If others in your family have suffered from herniated discs, you may be genetically predisposed to developing a herniated disc.

Improper lifting techniques and smoking can also lead to the development of a herniated disc.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

Not everyone who has a herniated disc will experience symptoms. Herniated disc symptoms vary depending on the location of the damaged disc.

Symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck may include:

  • Pain that radiates to the shoulder, arm and sometimes the hand and fingers
  • Neck pain, usually worse when moving
  • Shoulder blade pain
  • Neck muscle spasms

Symptoms of a herniated disc in the mid-back may include:

  • Upper back pain
  • Pain in the lower back and abdomen
  • Leg pain
  • Numbness or weakness in one or both legs

Symptoms of a herniated disc in the lower back may include:

  • Pain that radiates to the buttocks and down the leg and feet
  • Tingling or numbness in the legs or feet
  • Weakness in the leg muscles

herniated disc back pain

Herniated Disc Treatment Options

Treatment for a herniated disc usually begins with conservative treatment, and symptoms most often resolve within a week or two. For some, just avoiding positions that cause discomfort and taking some over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications is enough to relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc.

Other herniated disc treatment includes:

  • Medication – OTC pain medications can relieve mild to moderate pain and inflammation. Prescription pain medication, muscle relaxants, or anticonvulsants for nerve pain may also be prescribed for severe pain and radiating nerve pain.
  • Heat and cold – Applying hot or cold compresses or using a combination of the two may help with pain and inflammation and loosen stiff muscles.
  • Massage – Massage can help to relax stiff muscles which can help to relieve pain.
  • Corticosteroid injections  Steroids injected directly into the area surrounding the spinal nerves can be used for temporary relief of moderate to severe pain.
  • Physical therapy – In working with a physical therapist you will learn exercises to relieve pressure on the nerves to improve your flexibility so that you can regain your range of motion. You will also learn techniques for proper posture and safer lifting to help avoid back problems in the future.

In some cases, conservative treatment isn’t enough and surgery may be recommended for the treatment of a herniated disc. This is the case for those experiencing arm or leg weakness that interferes with walking or standing or if conservative treatments fail to relieve symptoms.

Minimally invasive herniated disc treatment can relieve pain and restore mobility without the long recovery or risks of traditional open spine surgery.

If you’re experiencing debilitating pain or if you’ve tried non-surgical herniated disc treatment for six weeks without improvement, call [sc name=”patient_phone_number_dash”]. Back Pain Centers of America have helped over 30,000 people put an end to back pain using innovative minimally invasive procedures, most of which can get you home the same day. Call us today to learn more about how you can stop the pain and start enjoying life again.

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