A herniated disc, also called a slipped or ruptured disc, is a fragment of the disc that is pushed out into the spinal canal through a tear or rupture. The displaced disc presses on spinal nerves, producing pain that may be severe.
Strain or injury may cause a herniated disc. However, disc material degenerates naturally as you age, and the ligaments that hold the disc into place begin to weaken. This makes herniation more likely to occur in older people.
Symptoms of a Herniated Disc
- Severe pain
- Numbness of weakness in the area of the body to which a
compressed nerve travels
- Sciatica if the herniated disc is in the lower back
- Dull or sharp pain in the neck or between the shoulder
blades if the herniated disc is in the neck
Herniated Disc Treatment
The majority of herniated discs do not require surgery. Your doctor may prescribe bed rest or advise you to maintain a low, pain-free activity level for a few days to several weeks.
A herniated disc is frequently treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications if the pain is only mild to moderate. An epidural steroid injection may be performed using a spinal needle under x-ray guidance to direct medication to the exact level of disc herniation.
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy. The therapist will perform an in-depth evaluation, which, combined with the doctor’s diagnosis, will dictate a treatment specifically designed for patients with herniated discs.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if conservative treatment options, such as physical therapy and medications, do not reduce or stop the pain altogether. Based on the specifics of your case, your doctor will help you determine the procedure appropriate for you. As with any surgery, a patient’s age, overall health and other issues are taken into consideration when surgery is considered. The benefits of surgery are always weighed carefully against its risks.
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