A herniated disc, also known as a “ruptured” or “slipped” disc, occurs when the inner core (nucleus pulposus) of the intervertebral disc bulges out through the tough outer layer of ligaments that surround the disc (annulus fibrosis). Back or neck pain can arise from this tear in the annulus fibrosis. If the protruding disc presses on a nerve, pain, numbness, or weakness may occur in the area of the body that is served by that nerve.
Symptoms of Herniated Disc
Pain characteristically is intense and abrupt in onset. Disc herniations may also cause pain in the arm or the leg without corresponding neck or back pain. Pain can be aggravated by forward or lateral bending, and is typically relieved by lying down and resting. Leg pain can lead to a painful gait, with weight being transferred primarily to the unaffected leg.
An MRI is the test of choice for diagnosis of a herniated disc. A CT scan (CAT scan) with myelography (a spinal injection of contrast dye) may sometimes be helpful for visualization of the bony anatomy of the spinal column and may be necessary for patients unable to undergo an MRI scan. Electrical tests such as electromyography (EMG) may also help confirm injury to a nerve caused by disc herniation or bulge.
Herniated Disc Treatments
Herniated disc treatments are often conservative and nonsurgical and include options such as medication, activity modification, physical therapy and steroid injections. Patients may limit the amount of bending, lifting and twisting in order to decrease the amount of stress and pressure on the lumbar spine, which may increase the pressure on the affected nerve root. Medication can include anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and muscle relaxants. Some patients may also benefit from an anti-inflammatory spinal injection to lessen nerve swelling and irritation caused by the damaged disc.
Herniated disc surgery is typically recommended only after physical therapy, rest, and medications have failed to adequately relieve the symptoms of pain, numbness and weakness over a significant period of time. Surgical options include traditional open discectomy and minimally invasive discectomy. Learn more about herniated disc treatments for your specific needs by scheduling a consultation with our experienced Houston neurosurgeons today - (281) 313-0031.