Herniated Discs

Herniated discs are so common, they’ve earned a variety of nicknames. People with a herniated disc may refer to their problem as a bulging disc, slipped disc or ruptured disc.

No matter what you call them, herniated discs are a leading cause of low back painsciatica nerve pain and other problems.

Understanding Spinal Discs

Your spine is formed by a stack of interlocking bones called vertebrae.

Between your vertebrae are round pieces of tissue called intervertebral discs (spinal discs). The outer layer of each disc is tough and rubbery. The inside is filled with a substance resembling jelly.

Together your discs cushion your vertebrae. They absorb shock and prevent the bones from rubbing against each other. They also help make your spine flexible, so you can easily turn, twist and bend.

What is a herniated disc?

If the outer layer of a spinal disc tears, the jelly inside may bulge through the opening. And if this jelly presses against one of the nerves in your spine, it can cause pain, numbness and tingling along the entire length of the nerve.

The nerves in your spine branch out toward your arms and legs. If your herniated disc is pressing against a nerve in your lower back, you may have pain in your buttocks, thigh, calf or foot. If the problem disc is in your neck, pain may radiate to your shoulder and arm.

Herniated discs are often age-related. As you get older, your spinal discs may become dryer and more brittle. This makes them less flexible, and more prone to injury including cracking or tearing.

Herniated Disc Treatment at Mercy

Mercy’s orthopedic specialists and neurosurgeons have experience distinguishing herniated discs from other problems that cause back and limb pain. Whether your symptoms are manageable or disabling, you can trust our doctors to help you overcome them.

Your treatment plan will depend on the location of your herniated disc, and the severity of your pain and other symptoms. It may include:

  • Medications that relieve pain or prevent muscle spasms.
  • Cortisone injections to reduce inflammation.
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation to improve spine flexibility and stability, and strengthen your muscles. Your physical therapist can also help you adjust your activities, so you learn to avoid positions or movements that cause pain.
  • Surgery to remove part of (or the entire) herniated disc.

Symptoms of a herniated disc can be frustrating, but most can be managed without surgery. If you need help getting your pain under control, talk to your Mercy physician about your treatment options. Not only can you live with a herniated disc, you can live actively and comfortably.

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