Discs are the rubbery cushions between the spinal vertebrae that protect the spine and spinal cord during impact. They have a tough exterior with a softer interior.
As we age, everyday activity can wear down a disc, a process that’s called disc degeneration. When the exterior of a disc wears down, the softer interior of the disc can slip or seep through the worn exterior. This is called a slipped or herniated disc.
Signs and Symptoms
Many people with a herniated disc don't experience symptoms. Typically, only when the disc is irritating nearby nerves does pain or numbness occur.
Herniated discs most often occur in the lumbar spine, or lower back, although they can also occur in the cervical spine, affecting the neck.
Other than back or neck pain, you may also experience:
- Leg pain that may radiate to your buttocks or down your leg if the herniated disc is in your lower back (in some cases, the herniated disc can press on the sciatic nerve, causing intense pain in your leg)
- Pain that gets more intense when you cough, sneeze, or move to a different position, if the herniated disc is in your neck, arm, or shoulder
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in hands, legs, or feet
Diagnosis and Treatment
The spine specialists at the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center in Houston diagnose a herniated disc using imaging technology, such as an MRI. They then develop a treatment plan that may include nonsurgical options such as pain relievers, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, and physical therapy. Other options may include massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. If these methods don’t resolve the issue and the problem progresses, we may suggest surgery.
If you suspect a herniated disc or have been diagnosed and are seeking nonsurgical treatment, contact Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center for an appointment.