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What does a herniated disc refer to?

A herniated disk refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (disks) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that stack up to make your spine.


What can a spinal disc be likened to?

A spinal disk is a little like a jelly donut, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior.


What are some other terms used to describe a herniated disc?

A herniated disc can sometimes be called a slipped disk or a ruptured disk


What happens when a disc herniates?

a herniated disk occurs when some of the softer "jelly" pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.


What can a herniated disc do to the body?

A herniated disk can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg.


Do most people who have a herniated disc need surgery to solve the problem?



What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

Arm or leg pain. Numbness or tingling.


What causes a disc herniation?

Disk herniation is most often the result of a gradual, aging-related wear and tear called disk degeneration.


What happens with age that can lead to disc degeneration?

As you age, your spinal disks lose some of their water content. That makes them less flexible and more prone to tearing or rupturing with even a minor strain or twist.


Can most people pinpoint the exact cause of their herniated disc?

Most people can't pinpoint the exact cause of their herniated disk. Sometimes, using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift large, heavy objects can lead to a herniated disk, as can twisting and turning while lifting. Rarely, a traumatic event such as a fall or a blow to the back can cause a herniated disk.


What are the risk factors that can lead to a herniated disc?

Weight, occupation, repetitive lifting and genetic factors


What are some complications that can occur with a herniated disc?

Rarely, disk herniation can compress the entire cauda equina. Emergency surgery may be required to avoid permanent weakness or paralysis.


When should you seek emergency medical attention?

Worsening symptoms, bladder or bowel dysfunction or saddle anesthesia.


What type of tests are done to diagnose a herniated disc?

A neurological exam and image tests.


What is done during a neurological exam?

Muscle strength
Walking ability
Ability to feel light touches, pinpricks or vibration


When would a doctor order image tests to diagnose a herniated disc?

fI your doctor suspects another condition or needs to see which nerves are affected, he or she may order image testing.


What are the different types of image testing that can be performed to diagnose a herniated disc?

X-ray, CT scan, MRI or Myelogram


What is a CT scan?

Computerized tomography (CT scan). A CT scanner takes a series of X-rays from many different directions and then combines them to create cross-sectional images of your spinal column and the structures around it.


What is an MRI?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Radio waves and a strong magnetic field are used to create images of your body's internal structures. This test can be used to confirm the location of the herniated disk and to see which nerves are affected.


What is a Myelogram?

Myelogram. A dye is injected into the spinal fluid, and then X-rays are taken. This test can show pressure on your spinal cord or nerves due to multiple herniated disks or other conditions.


What are conservative treatments for a herniated disc?

Conservative treatment — mainly avoiding painful positions and following a planned exercise and pain-medication regimen — relieves symptoms in 9 out of 10 people with a herniated disk.


What are some over-the-counter medications that one can take to relieve the pain of a herniated disc?

Over-the-counter pain medications - ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve, others).

Narcotics - Percocet, Oxycontin, others

Nerve pain medications - Drugs such as gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant), pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta), tramadol (Ultram) and amitriptyline often help relieve nerve-damage pain. Because these drugs have a milder set of side effects than do narcotic medications, they're increasingly being used as first line prescription medications for people who have herniated disks.

Muscle relaxers -

Cortisone injections - Inflammation-suppressing corticosteroids may be given by injection directly into the area around the spinal nerves.


What are some physical therapy techniques that can help herniated discs?

Heat or ice
Electrical stimulation
Short-term bracing for the neck or lower back


When might one consider surgery?

Your doctor may suggest surgery if conservative treatments fail to improve your symptoms after six weeks, especially if you continue to experience:

Numbness or weakness
Difficulty standing or walking
Loss of bladder or bowel control


What type of surgery is performed to a herniated disc?

In many cases, surgeons can remove just the protruding portion of the disk. Rarely, however, the entire disk must be removed. In these cases, the vertebrae may need to be fused together with metal hardware to provide spinal stability. Rarely, your surgeon may suggest the implantation of an artificial disk.


How can one prevent a herniated disc?

Exercise. Strengthening the trunk muscles helps stabilize and support the spine.

Maintain good posture. Good posture reduces the pressure on your spine and disks. Keep your back straight and aligned, particularly when sitting for long periods. Lift heavy objects properly, making your legs — not your back — do most of the work.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts more pressure on the spine and disks, making them more susceptible to herniation.