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Herniated Disc Treatment Specialists

Herniated discs are a common cause of back pain due to nerve irritation or compression. Sometimes referred to as a bulging disc, slipped disc, or ruptured disc, this condition can lead to significant discomfort or even disability. Symptoms of herniated discs include pain, tingling, and weakness in affected areas, with treatment ranging from rest and physical therapy to surgery in severe cases. Early detection of herniated discs is essential for effective management and recovery.

What is a Herniated Disc?

What is a Herniated Disc?

The spine is composed of vertebrae stacked on top of one another, with intervertebral discs situated between them. These discs have a tough outer layer, called the annulus fibrosus, and a soft, gel-like center, known as the nucleus pulposus. A herniated disc occurs when there is a tear in the outer shell allowing the soft inner tissue to protrude or “herniate” out of its normal space. This can irritate or compress the surrounding nerves, leading to pain, numbness, or weakness, or all three.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Symptoms of a herniated disc may be varied, depending on its location and the extent of the nerve irritation.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain: The discomfort from a herniated disc is generally experienced on one side. It’s commonly localized in the leg, hip, or buttocks and often accompanied by numbness elsewhere. Additional sensations might include sharp or shock-like pain or numbness in the calf or sole of the foot or, in the case of a cervical disc herniation, the arms and neck.
  • Numb or Tingling Sensation: Tingling or numbness are common expressions of a herniated disc. These sensations will not necessarily be at the site of the damage, but in the areas served by the affected nerves.
  • Muscle Weakness: Weak muscles are a side effect of herniated discs, affecting the ability to lift or hold items. This problem can also affect your ability to stand or walk if the affected nerves are in the legs.

Should you experience any of these symptoms persistently, one of our dedicated team will work with you for a swift diagnosis and tailored herniated disc treatment plan.

Causes of a Herniated Disc

The development of a herniated disc is often due to age-related wear and tear, called disc degeneration. With age, intervertebral discs lose water content, making them less flexible and more susceptible to tearing even with minor strains or twists.

However, other factors can contribute to the risk of a disc herniation, such as:

Age: One of the primary causes of herniated discs is age-related degeneration. As we get older, the spinal discs dry out and become less flexible, making them more likely to be damaged.

Genetics: Research shows that some people have a genetic predisposition to developing herniated discs. Inherited traits such as weak muscles or abnormal spine alignment can increase the risk of disc problems.

Lifestyle Factors: Certain lifestyle habits can contribute to the development of herniated discs. These include smoking, poor posture, sedentary behavior, and improper lifting techniques.

Obesity: Excess weight puts added pressure on the spine and increases the risk of disc herniation. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce this risk.

Repetitive Stress: Activities that involve repetitive bending, twisting, or heavy lifting can strain the spinal discs and lead to herniation over time.

Trauma: Sudden injuries from car accidents, falls, or sports-related incidents can cause a disc to rupture or slip out of place.

It’s important to note that not everyone with these risk factors will develop a herniated disc, but being aware of the potential causes can help you take preventive measures to protect your spine health and reduce the impact of this condition on your life. If you do experience symptoms such as back pain or numbness that could be indicative of a herniated disc, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for diagnosis and treatment options tailored to your specific condition.

Diagnosis of a Herniated Disc

Diagnosis usually begins with a physical examination and a review of your medical history. To confirm the presence of a herniated disc and its specific location, your spinal expert might recommend various tests, including a nerve conduction study (NCS), medical imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which provide detailed images of the body’s soft tissues, computer tomography (CT) scans, combining multiple X-ray images, or X-rays. These diagnostic tools help your physician rule out other causes of your pain, although this technique is less useful for soft tissue injuries.

Getting a precise diagnosis is critical for effective herniated disc treatments to be administered.

Treatment for a Herniated Disc

There are times when surgery is necessary to treat a herniated disc. However, we will always look for a less invasive, non-surgical treatment for bulging discs, wherever possible. There are several non-surgical options that can help alleviate symptoms and improve mobility for sufferers of herniated discs.

Physical Therapy: One popular non-surgical treatment for herniated discs is physical therapy. Your healthcare provider will create a customized exercise program to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected area and improve your strength and flexibility. Physical therapy can also teach you the correct way to move and hold your body, including proper posture, to prevent further injury.

Chiropractic: Another non-surgical option for treating herniated discs is chiropractic care. This treatment features spinal adjustments or manipulations to relieve pressure on the affected disc, thereby reducing pain. Chiropractic care can also help improve the alignment of the spine and the overall function of your torso.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication: To treat inflammation and pain, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently prescribed by doctors. Less severe pain may be effectively treated with readily available over-the-counter options like ibuprofen or naproxen.

Muscle Relaxers: Other medications that might be recommended by your doctor are muscle relaxers, used to ease stiffness and improve your range of motion. Muscle relaxers work by targeting the muscles that are in spasm, helping them to relax and reducing overall tension in the affected area. Muscle-relaxing drugs must only be used under the guidance of a medical professional, as they can have side effects and interact with other medications.

Epidural Steroid Injection: A slightly more invasive treatment, this type of injection delivers anti-inflammatory medication directly into the space around the affected nerve root to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.

Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine practice involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow and promote healing. It can be very effective at reducing pain and discomfort.

Massage Therapy: Therapeutic massage can help relax tight muscles, improve circulation, and reduce the pain associated with a herniated disc.

Lifestyle Changes: Herniated disc self-care includes regular low-impact exercise like swimming, walking, or yoga, to strengthen the muscles supporting your spine and help reduce the inflammation and pain associated with a herniated disc. Maintaining a healthy body weight is also recommended to minimize the stress on the spine.

Overall, non-surgical treatments for herniated discs offer effective ways to manage your symptoms without undergoing invasive procedures. It’s essential to consult with a spine specialist before starting any treatment for a herniated disc to avoid making matters worse. Our expert spine surgeons can assess your condition and recommend the most appropriate course of action based on your individual needs. By incorporating these non-surgical therapies into your treatment plan, you can find relief from pain while improving your mobility and quality of life.

In cases where conservative treatments do not alleviate symptoms, surgery such as microdiscectomy may be considered. Surgery is generally reserved for patients experiencing debilitating pain or significant weakness, or those who have not benefited from non-surgical treatments for bulging discs.

When treating herniated discs, our goal is to enable you to return to your normal activities with less pain and more knowledge about how to maintain your best spinal health to prevent future issues.

While a herniated disc can be a painful and disruptive condition, there are various successful treatment for herniated disc options available to help manage and alleviate the symptoms. Contact one of our spine clinics throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania today for your professional, personalized treatment plan.

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