The bones in your spine, called vertebrae, are separated and supported by small spongy discs. These discs act as cushions between the vertebrae, keeping your spine comfortable and flexible. If a disc is damaged, it can bulge out of shape (herniate) or even break open (rupture). A damaged disc may also be referred to as a slipped disc.
- Sharp pain, which may feel like electric shock
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty urinating or having bowel movements
- Numbness around your genitals
The symptoms of herniated discs are caused by the disc material bulging out and pressing on nearby nerves. This pressure causes pain, numbness, or weakness along the nerve. If the disc is not pressing on a nerve you may have no symptoms at all, or you may experience a general backache.
A bulging disc in the lower back is likely to cause numbness and tingling in your buttocks and legs. This is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the lower back and is called sciatica. A herniated disc in your upper back is likely to cause symptoms in your neck, shoulders, or arms.
Our doctors can diagnose a herniated disc by discussing your symptoms with you in detail. A physical exam is then performed to test sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes. If a herniated disc is suspected, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) may be done to create an image of your spine and discs.
Discography is another tool our team of doctors specialize in to examine the discs in your spine. A discography is a minimally invasive diagnostic procedure in which contrast dye is injected into the discs of the spine. An x-ray is then taken to examine the discs between the vertebrae. This type of imaging can reveal the precise location of a damaged disc, a hernia or a rupture.
The combination of these methods allow our experienced doctors to accurately pinpoint the cause of your back pain.
- Age: discs become less spongy and more rigid with age.
- Smoking: smoking decreases oxygen levels in the blood, depriving discs of nutrients and making them more prone to rupture.
- Diabetes: as with smoking, diabetes decreases oxygen levels in the blood.
- Weight: excess weight causes more stress on the discs.
- Repetitive Motion: pushing, pulling, lifting, and twisting in your everyday life causes strain on the discs and can lead to rupture.
- Sedentary Lifestyle: lack of exercise can cause unhealthy discs and increase chance of rupture.
Most herniated discs will heal on their own. The least invasive treatment you can use during this time include over-the-counter medication to relieve the pain, as well as rest and the
application of ice and heat.
There are several minimally invasive treatments that our doctors can perform to relieve you of your pain. The pain caused by herniated and ruptured discs is a result of the pressure from the disc material. DISC Nucleoplasty, Intradiscal Electrothermal Therapy (IDET), and percutaneous nucleoplasty all treat disc disorders by removing or reshaping disc material.
Our doctors will create a plan of care and talk to you about which of the treatment combinations will be best for you.