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Herniated Disc

Herniated Disc

Intervertebral discs serve as cushions between vertebrae that provide flexibility and shock absorption to the spine. The inner core of a disc, soft and gel-like in consistency, is surrounded by an outer layer of ligaments. A herniated disc occurs when the inner core pushes out through a rupture in the outer layer of the disc.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

The most common symptom of a herniated disc is acute pain at the point of rupture. If part of the disc pushes out and makes contact with a nerve, causing compression, patients may experience muscle weakness, numbness or tingling in the extremities, balance issues and back pain. Pain sometimes radiates down one leg or the other, and is often described as deep and sharp.
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Causes of a Herniated Disc


Disc herniation is most often caused by natural disc degeneration that comes with age. As a patient ages, the ligaments of the outer portion of the disc become more brittle and the inner core loses fluid. Degenerated discs are more likely to rupture, leading to a herniated disc. 
In some cases, traumatic injury can cause a herniated disc. Most often, disc herniation is a result of a twist or motion that ruptures an already degenerative disc.


Diagnosis of a Herniated Disc

Doctors will conduct a physical examination during which they will identify the symptoms and their severity. A neurological examination will help determine if disc compression is present based on nerve pain in the back and extremities. Straight Leg Test An MRI scan will reveal the location and degree of herniation. A CT scan may be ordered to give the doctor a better view of the spinal column where a herniated disc may be compressing a nerve.


Treatment of a Herniated Disc

In the majority of cases, non-surgical treatments including physical therapy, medication and rest are sufficient to treat a herniated disc. If non-surgical treatment fails, surgery may be recommended. There are a number of surgical procedures available. The best procedure for each patient depends on the location and degree of the herniated disc. Consult with your doctor to discuss the potential risks and benefits of surgery.
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Herniated Disc MRI