Herniated Disc

What is a Herniated Disc?

A diagnosis of a herniated disc indicates where a disc's inner material has pushed through torn fibers in the disc against the outer wall creating the herniated disc. Due to the anatomy of the spine and close proximity to the spinal nerves, irritation or compression of the nerve root can occur.

Anatomy of the spine as it relates to herniated discs.Illustration of the spine anatomy.

Herniated Disc or Another Condition?

The degree of the herniated disc can affect whether the patient experiences just pain and numbness in the limb or actual muscle weakness of the muscles supplied by the nerve. A familiar term of "sciatica” can result from a herniated disc in the lower back, giving symptoms down the back of the leg.

Many people confuse the terms herniated disc with the term bulging disc. These are actually two completely different injuries and require different treatments. While bulging discs are contained and do not rupture the discs outer layer, a small bubble extends into the spinal canal. Herniated discs, on the other hand, are not contained. They put so much pressure on the disc wall that it ruptures, and creates the condition known ad a herniation. 

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Herniated Discs can be hard to diagnose, simply because pain caused from a disc herniation can send waves of pain throughout the body. Pain varies from mild to severe and can be felt in a variety of places in the body which include the arms, legs, back, and neck.  

What is a Slipped Disk in the Back of Neck?

A slipped disk is another way of describing and herniated disc. Spinal discs don't really "slip" in and out of place. But it may feel that way if there is a disc issue.

Treatment of a Herniated DiscSpinal cord with a herniated disk, JOIImage of the Spine

The treatment for less severe herniated disc can include physical therapy to address core stability, flexibility, posture, ergonomics, and pain. Injections to decrease inflammation that leads to pain can also be given, which can help resolve symptoms in a lot of cases.

A larger herniation that compresses the nerve with resulting muscle weakness or a herniation where symptom resolution can’t be achieved conservatively may require surgery by an orthopedic specialist. A procedure known as a “discectomy” is performed to remove the part of the disc pressing on the nerve.

Maintaining good body mechanics, core stability and flexibility in conjunction with a healthy weight, are all factors that contribute to a healthy spine and can help prevent a herniated disc. 

Related Conditions

If you are experiencing back pain but these symptoms do not match your own, you may have a different injury. Read the following articles to get a better understanding of what your injury may be:

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