Your spine consists of bones called vertebrae with soft discs acting like cushions between them. The discs may weaken over time and even rupture, causing pain and difficulty moving. When this occurs to a disc, it is called a herniated or ruptured disc. It is especially painful because the bulging center of the disc often presses against sensitive nerves or the spinal cord.
Pain is the most common symptom of a herniated disc. The location of the pain is associated with the location of the damaged disc and may occur anywhere along the spine. A herniated disc in the neck area may cause neck or arm pain. This can include pain when moving the neck, numbness in the shoulders down, or shooting pain down the arm. A herniated disc in the lumbar spine may cause back or leg pain, sometimes called sciatica because the disc presses on the sciatic nerve that runs down the leg. Pain, numbness, or weakness may occur. Spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer in New York City finds that herniated discs are not too difficult to diagnose because the symptoms often clearly indicate damage to a disc in the spine.
Spinal discs weaken and become less cushioned during the aging process. A weakened disc may tear on the exterior part, allowing the inner part to push through the tear and hit the nerves next to the disc. Some risks for herniated discs are being middle aged or older, being overweight, lifting heavy objects, bending or twisting the body repetitively, or sitting in the same position regularly for long periods.
Dr. Fischer will ask the patient about medical history and symptoms and perform a thorough exam, looking for weakness, numbness, or pain. Diagnostic tests like X-rays, CT scans, or MRI may be helpful in confirming a diagnosis of disc herniation. Nerve testing may also be advised to identify exactly which nerves are affected by the damaged disc.
Common treatments for herniated discs include:
- Medication like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, prescription pain relievers, or muscle relaxants
- Steroid injections directly into the affected area of the spine to administer medication to reduce swelling and lessen pain
- Physical therapy exercises that target back and stomach muscles to strengthen them and therefore relieve pressure on the disc
- Surgery as a final resort to remove all or part of the herniated disc if other treatment methods are not sufficient
If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with a herniated disc, there is no reason to suffer. Schedule a consultation today with Dr. Fischer to get the help you need.