The spinal column is made up of vertebrae or bones, and in between each vertebra is a pillow-like disc that serves as a cushion and shock absorber. Vertebral discs have a tough outer layer, and in the center is the nucleus. Wear and tear disease can cause the discs to degenerate and push the nucleus out of the annulus through a tear and into the spinal canal, irritating the nerves and causing a narrowing of the spinal canal. A herniated disc is also referred to as a bulged, slipped, or ruptured disc and is common in the lumbar and cervical region of the spine.
The herniated disc presses against the spinal nerves, causing pain. The pain from a herniated disc can be severe. The location of the pain also depends on the location of the herniation and its size. If the herniation is minimal and does not touch on a nerve, the pain may be mild. If it presses on a nerve, the symptoms may include numbness or weakness. Since spinal nerves travel to other parts of the body, symptoms can be felt anywhere – not just in the back.
Disc herniation in the lumbar region of the spine may cause sciatica or radiculopathy, which causes a burning and tingling sensation that radiates from the buttock down to the leg and foot. The symptoms get worse with sitting, standing, and walking or when straightening the leg. Disc herniation in the cervical region may cause a dull or sharp pain in the neck and shoulder blades and radiating pain, numbness, and tingling affecting the arm, hand, and fingers.
A herniated disc may be treated non-surgically or surgically. Your doctor may recommend reduced activity for a few weeks, NSAIDs for mild to moderate pain symptoms, and injection therapy using steroids for severe symptoms. Physical therapy is a critical part of treatment, and a customized program is most safe and effective. A physical therapy program usually includes stretching exercises, manual manipulation, temperature therapy, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation.
Only if conservative treatments fail to produce the desired results and the patient is impaired and experiencing significant symptoms due to the disc herniation will doctors recommend surgery. During the surgery, the doctor removes the herniated portion of the disc. For example, in a microdiscectomy, commonly used to treat a herniated disc in the lumbar region of the spine, the doctor removes a small part of the bone as well as part of the disc that is causing nerve compression.
Orthopaedic Surgeon in Catonsville, Columbia, Eldersburg, and Ellicott City
The orthopaedic surgeons at Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland are experts in treating disc herniation using nonsurgical and surgical methods, and we have been serving the community of Central Maryland for over 50 years. For something as delicate as your spine, put your trust in orthopedic experts with years of experience in advanced spine care.
To schedule a consultation with a trusted spine doctor, call (410) 644-1880 or request an appointment online now.