You may have heard of or known someone with a herniated disk, but have you ever wondered what exactly the condition means (aside from causing back pain)? We break down all there is to know and what treatment options are available.
Anatomy of the Spine
In order to know what a herniated disk is, it’s important to understand the role of disks in your spine. Your spine is comprised of:
- Vertebrae – bones stacked upon each other which create a canal to protect the spinal cord.
- Spinal cord & nerves – part of your nervous system, the spinal cord delivers messages from the brain to the muscles of the body
- Intervertebral disks – flat and round, these disks are found between the vertebrae. They are flexible and absorb shock from movement like running or walking. They are made of two components: a touch flexible outer ring (annulus fibrosus) and a soft jelly-like center (nucleus pulposus).
When the soft center of the disk pushes against or even squeezes past the outer ring, it is herniated. It can put pressure directly on the spinal cord, causing pain that can extend from the lower back down the leg. If a disk is herniated in the neck, pain can be felt through the neck, shoulder or arm.
Wear and tear on the intervertebral discs can cause them to weaken, so age, occupation and weight are risk factors to be aware of.
Most patients are able to find relief through non-surgical treatment options such as:
- Cold & Heat
- Physical Therapy
- Steroid injections
Surgical options include Lumbar miscrodiskectomy, where the portion of the disk that is bulging and applying pressure on the spinal cord is removed, and cervical discectomy with fusion or disk replacement, where the damaged disc is removed and replaced with either bone or an artificial disk.
If you are experiencing unusual pain, don’t ignore it until it gets worse. The specialists of the Spine Center at NEOSM are skilled in all forms of treatment to help ease your symptoms. Contact us for an evaluation.