What Is a Herniated Disc?
Your spine consists of vertebrae, which are the bones of the spine that provide a movable support structure for your back. In between each vertebra sits small spongy discs, which acts as shock absorbers for the spine and keeps the spine flexible with mobility.
As we age, our spinal discs gradually lose their elasticity and becomes more rigid and more susceptible to injury. The discs are shaped like a donut, with a harder outer fibrous ring (annulus) and a softer center called the nucleus. When a disc is damaged, its outer ring may begin to bulge or even rupture/tear, allowing the soft nucleus material to bulge out extending beyond the damaged ring. This is called a herniated disc. It may occur suddenly in an event such as a fall or after heavy lifting, or may occur slowly with repetitive bending or straining of the spine.
You can have a herniated disc in any part of your spine, but most commonly it occurs in the lower lumbar spine. Some occur in the neck (cervical spine) and, more rarely, in the upper back (thoracic spine).
Herniated Disc Symptoms
When a herniated disc bulges out from its outer ring, it may press on a spinal nerve root and can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the area of the body where the nerve travels (typically down the leg or arm).
The location of the pain depends on which disc and nerve is involved. The severity of pain depends on how much the bulging disc is pressing against the nerve root. If a disc herniation occurs in the lower lumbar back, you will feel the symptoms such as muscle weakness, pain, numbness and tingling in your lower buttocks, leg, or foot. If it occurs in the cervical neck section of your spine, you will feel it in your neck, shoulders, down the arms or even in your fingers. The symptoms are usually experienced on one side of your body, but can happen bilaterally.
In rare cases, symptoms include bowel or bladder problems, balance difficulties or numbness in the groin. This may be a sign of cauda equina syndrome which may require urgent diagnosis and treatment, as the condition can become permanent if not properly addressed.
Herniated Disc Treatment
The pain from a herniated disc usually worsens with activities that apply more pressure to the affected nerve(s) or surrounding tissue, such as prolonged sitting, driving, bending forward, coughing or sneezing. Rest only provides temporary relief to the symptoms.
If you think you suffer from these symptoms or may have a herniated disc, please contact us for an evaluation. When herniated discs goes untreated for a prolonged period of time, it may result in any of the following conditions: increased pain, pain found in a new area, development of chronic pain, soft tissue damage, and in severe cases, nerve damage.
At the Spine and Joint Center, we offer various non-surgical treatments for disc herniation.
- Injection based therapies
- Radiofrequency therapy
- Medical acupuncture
- Medication management
- Regenerative Therapies
- Home stretching and exercise programs
- Physical therapy prescriptions and Chiropractic recommendations
Medical Acupuncture for Disc Herniations
Acupuncture can be used to relieve pain caused by disc herniations. In Chinese medicine, a disc herniation is often linked to kidney deficiency or weakness. The goal of the treatment is to stimulate blood circulation in the area to slow down buildup of inflammation around the spine and spinal nerve roots and to improve healing of the spine.
Does Regenerative Therapy or PRP Therapy “Fix” a Herniated Disc?
Regenerative Therapy and PRP therapy can be effective at treating bulging, or herniated discs. As the cause of disc herniations is often the damage of the harder tissues of the discs. Growth factors, cell therapy and PRP growth factors can be injected at into damaged areas to promote regeneration of cartilage, and blood vessels. By repairing the damaged discs, patient often notice differences after a few weeks from the treatment.
“When I came here in April, I was in much pain from a herniated disc, along with back sprains, wondering if I would ever return to work since I have a very physical job. I could do nothing back then. Dr. Noto's wisdom in taking the conservative path of treatment was a god send blessing. My health and strength slowly improved, the pain was relieved, blood pressure was gotten under control..and I was finally able to return to work. I thank God for Dr. Noto, along with his staff for their care and compassion. I don't know where I would have been if I was not referred to him by the nurse from the Department of Labor. Dr. Noto....God bless you! With much thankfulness,”
Don D. Verified Patient