Disc Injuries

What is a spinal disc?

24 vertebrates that make up your spine; a rubbery material, called the spinal disc makes up the space between each vertebrate and absorbs shock from movement, allowing it to twist and bend.  Many types of injuries pertain to your disc, such as:

  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal stenosis

What is a herniated disc?

A herniated disc refers to a specific kind of injury involving one of the rubbery cushions that sit between the individual bones (vertebrae) that make up your spine. 

Spinal discs have a soft, spongy center called a nucleus, encased inside a tough, rubbery exterior called an annulus. Also known as a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when a piece of the nucleus squeezes out through a tear in the annulus.

A herniated disc, which can occur at any level of the spine, can then put pressure on a nearby nerve. Depending on the location of the herniated disc, it can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.

Most often, spinal discs tend to herniate in the lower back (Lumbar Spine), although they may also occur in the neck (Cervical Spine). Signs and symptoms depend on the location of the affected disc and the impinged nerve. 

Arm or leg pain: If a disc herniates in the lower back, patients will typically feel pain in the buttocks, thigh, calf, and possibly the foot as well. If a disc herniates in the neck, patients typically feel the most pain in the shoulder and arm. This pain may shoot down your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move into certain positions. 

Numbness or tingling: People with a herniated disc often experience radiating numbness or tingling in the body part served by the affected nerves.

Weakness: Muscles served by the affected nerves tend to weaken. This can cause patients to stumble, or affect their ability to lift and hold items.

What is degenerative disc disease?

 The wear and tear of the spinal discs cause degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease most commonly affects people over 40 years old. With age, the spinal cord becomes compressed. Injuries to the spine and activities such as lifting also cause degeneration. This wear and tear is a form of arthritis, which is where the cartilage in the spine joints begins to wear out. Regardless of the cause, it is well known that arthritis of the spine often increases with increasing maturity for no reason that can be identified.

What are the treatment options for a herniated disc?

Some at-home treatments may be enough for managing a minor herniated disc injury. These treatments include:

  • Medications: OTC medications like ibuprofen can help manage pain with their anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Icing the injured area
  • Heat-Applying heat to the injured area
  • Stretching

Your provider will most likely start with more conservative treatments before escalating to surgery. The more conservative treatments include:

  • Medications: If OTC medication does not do enough, your provider may prescribe muscle relaxers, neuropathic drugs, and opioids.
  • Steroid Injections
  • Physical therapy

If the conservative treatments do not help after 6 weeks, your provider may opt for surgery. Few people with herniated disks require surgery. Most herniated disc surgeries result in the removal of the protruding portion of the disk. Rarely, the entire disk must be removed. In these cases, the vertebrae might need to be fused with a bone graft.

To allow the process of bone fusion, which takes months, metal hardware is placed in the spine to provide spinal stability. Rarely, your surgeon might suggest the implantation of an artificial disk.


Our mission is to help patients to return to work, improve their quality of life, reduce dependence on medication and healthcare providers, and avoid persistent injuries.

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