What Exactly Is a Herniated Disc?
Your spine is made up of bones called vertebrae and a rubbery cushion between each vertebra called discs. A herniated disc (sometimes called a slipped disc or ruptured disc) occurs when the soft inner portion of the disc becomes pushed out through the exterior border. A herniated disc can occur in the neck or the back and often is the result of trauma or excessive strain.
The diagram in the video below shows a representation of the disc “pushing out”. As you can see by the arrow, a disc herniation (the bulging part in the video), often impinges directly on a nerve root (the yellow part), resulting in shooting pain, numbness and tingling, and sometimes weakness.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
As we get older, the discs in our spine can lose flexibility and elasticity. The ligaments surrounding the discs can become brittle and are more easily torn. Sometimes, using your back muscles instead of your leg and thigh muscles to lift heavy objects can lead to a herniated disc, as can twisting and turning while lifting. A traumatic event such as a fall can also cause a herniated disc. Symptoms of a herniated disc usually present on just one side of the body and can vary depending on the location of the herniation. Depending on the severity of the herniated disc, you could experience varying degrees of pain. When a herniated disc affects a nearby nerve (radiculopathy) or the spinal cord (myelopathy), the following symptoms can occur:
- Sharp pain
How are Herniated Discs Treated?
Some people do not experience symptoms and don’t even know they have a herniated disc. But it is time to seek medical attention if you are experiencing neck or back pain that travels down your arm or leg, or if you also have numbness, tingling or weakness. In many cases, conservative treatment, such as rest, modifying movement and taking over-the-counter pain medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium) offers relief of symptoms. But for more serious instances of a herniated disc, Dr. Kalra may recommend:
- Cortisone injections. If your pain doesn’t improve with the use of oral medications, Dr. Kalra might recommend a corticosteroid that can be injected into the area around the spinal nerves.
- Muscle relaxants. If you are experiencing muscle spasms, a muscle relaxant can help.
- Physical therapy. Dr. Kalra may suggest physical therapy to help with your pain. Physical therapists can show you positions and exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disc.
- Surgery. At Kalra Brain & Spine, surgery is always a last resort. Dr. Kalra will only suggest surgery after all other treatment methods have failed to bring sufficient relief.
Surgery for Herniated Disc
Depending on the severity of your pain, if weakness is present, the location of your herniated disc and how much it is affecting your quality of life, Dr. Kalra may recommend a Microdiscectomy. Microdiscectomy is the surgery indicated to remove the affected disc to relieve the pressure on the nerve causing the extremity pain, weakness and numbness. But even if Dr. Kalra does recommend surgical intervention, you’ll be happy to hear that he’s a fellowship-trained spinal surgeon with tremendous experience in the treatment of herniated discs. For those who are good candidates, Dr. Kalra may recommend a less invasive option. For example, when a disc herniation occurs in the neck, an Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement may be a treatment option. Dr. Kalra was one of the first spine surgeons trained in implanting the Mobi-C artificial disc when it became approved by insurance companies. Some of the benefits of the Mobi-C include: a minimally invasive surgery, no down-time, no cervical collar and no fusion. This option also preserves the natural motion of the neck and substantially decreases the risk of another neck surgery down the road. Not sure if you’re a candidate for artificial disc replacement? Take this quiz to learn more.
Why Should I See a Neurosurgeon for a Herniated Disc?
At Kalra Brain & Spine, our wide range of treatment options from pain management and physical therapies to innovative spine surgeries have helped many patients with spinal disc herniation reclaim their lives. We often see individuals seeking a second (or even third!) opinion for their condition. We love it when this happens because by seeing Dr. Kalra, you just may find a treatment you had never considered. We always suggest getting a second opinion when a serious surgical solution is suggested to address a medical issue. At Kalra Brain & Spine, we treat every patient like the neighbor, friend and family member they are. Our collective commitment is to educate, diagnose, treat and help each patient get out of pain and regain their life. We treat conditions of the spine, brain and peripheral nerves.
Neurosurgical Care You Can Trust
At Kalra Brian & Spine, you’re in good hands. Dr. Kalra specializes in the most up-to-date evidence-based care. He has helped countless people get out of pain and regain their lives. As a D Magazine “Best Doctors in Dallas” award winner in 2017, 2018, 2019 (and counting!), you can feel confident knowing Dr. Kalra is trusted by his patients and respected by his peers. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of a herniated disc or have unexplained pain (even if you’ve seen other doctors and still have not found relief), we’d love to meet with you to see if we can help. Schedule an appointment today.