Herniated Discs


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The bones that form the spine in your back are cushioned by small, spongy intervertebral discs. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers and keep the spine flexible. But when a disc is damaged, it may bulge or break open. This is called a herniated disc. It may also be called a slipped or ruptured disc. Patients can have a herniated disc in any part of their spine, but most herniated discs affect the lower back, or lumbar spine. Some can occur in the neck and even in the upper back.

When a herniated disc presses on nerve roots, it can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the area of the body where the nerve travels.  If ruptured, the chemicals within an intervertebral disc can also irritate the nerve roots.  A herniated disc in the lower back can cause pain and numbness in the buttock and down the leg. This is called sciatica.  Sciatica is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the low back.  If the compression is significant, the nerve signal to the muscle may be blocked and you may experience weakness.

Treatment Options

Over 3-6 months, most cases of herniated discs resolve on their own. However, during that time, significant debilitation and pain may be experienced.  Your physician may recommend medications, epidural steroid injections, disc decompression, physical therapy, or possibly surgery to relieve the symptoms of a herniated disc. Talk to your healthcare provider about the different treatment options available to you to treat your herniated disc(s).