If you or a loved one has ever suffered the pain of a herniated disc, you likely won’t soon forget the experience. The symptoms caused by a disc herniation can be excruciating, and they can affect how you go about your daily life.
Here’s what you need to know about disc herniation and how a specialized neurosurgical team can help.
What Is a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc is also commonly referred to as a “ruptured,” “slipped,” or “bulging” disc. To understand the basics of disc herniation, it helps to briefly visualize the structure of your spine. In between each of your bony vertebrae is a round-shaped cushion known as a disc that helps provide easy mobility and range of motion to your spinal column. When the inner filling of the disc protrudes out of the disc and into the tightly compacted surrounding area, it is known as a disc herniation.
What Causes Disc Herniation?
When the inner filling of a disc ruptures out of its normal space due to degeneration of the disc or an acute event, it can put pressure on the surrounding nerves and structures and cause symptoms. Herniated disc causes are numerous and include the following:
- Sudden bending, twisting, or lifting motions
- Traumas, such as motor vehicle accidents
- Conditions that put more pressure on the discs, such as weight gain or pregnancy
Other conditions that cause discs to degenerate, such as aging or cigarette smoking, can make it more likely that they will herniate, even without a significant inciting event.
What Are the Types of Disc Herniation?
Disc herniations are categorized by the region of the spine in which they occur. If a disc herniates between the bones of your neck, it is known as a “cervical disc herniation.” A herniation between the bones of your upper back, also known as your thoracic spine, is known as a “thoracic disc herniation.” Lumbar disc herniations refer to discs that rupture in your lower back, and they are the most common type of disc herniation.
What Are the Symptoms of Disc Herniation?
Some people with herniated discs will have no idea that they have the condition because they have no symptoms. However, if you do have symptoms of a herniated disc, they can include the following:
- Sudden onset of severe, sharp pain that occurs in a specific pattern or area
- Pain that feels like a “burning” or “shock” that is worsened by certain movements
- Numbness or tingling of your arms or legs
- Weakness of an arm or leg
Herniated disc symptoms can feel like an emergency because they can be severe and agonizing. True emergent symptoms include numbness of the inside of your thighs or loss of bowel or bladder control. If you are experiencing these symptoms along with other disc herniation symptoms, seek emergency care immediately.
How Is Disc Herniation Treated?
Whether a disc herniation is suspected or directly identified, it often resolves on its own within a series of weeks. However, when symptoms of a disc herniation do not respond to conservative treatment or physical therapy alone, neurosurgical procedures such as a laminotomy and discectomy, or laminectomy, can be an important component of effective herniated disc treatment. These procedures help remove the herniated disc and a part of the spinal bone that has been involved in the herniation, relieving pressure and improving symptoms. Sometimes, a fusion of spinal bones will also be needed to stabilize the region, and other times an artificial disc can replace a disc that has been surgically removed.
Seeking Care for Disc Herniation
At the Neurosurgical Associates of Central Jersey, PA, we are highly attuned to the condition of neck pain and low back pain, and we excel at helping our patients recover and regain their quality of life after suffering a disc herniation.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a herniated disc, contact NEURO today for an evaluation.