Jed S. Vanichkachorn, MD, Tuckahoe Orthopaedics,SpineBy Jed S. Vanichkachorn, MD, MBA, MSHA

Disc herniation is a common occurrence that has the ability to affect almost anyone in his or her lifetime. Let’s take a brief look, then, at some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding disc herniation.

What is Disc Herniation?

Disc herniation involves the discs (sometimes also known as spacers or cushions) between joints in the spine. In layman terms, these discs often look like “jelly donuts.”

When the outer tissue pops and a rupture occurs, the result is pressure on the nerve. The most common areas for one to feel disc herniation pain are the neck and lower back.

How Does Disc Herniation Happen?

Disc herniation can take place due a simple event (i.e. a twist while getting out of bed). Injuries of these types tend to take place in the older population as they have a more limited range of motion or their bones do not support as much of their weight, so their spine takes on more work.

If a disc herniation happens to a younger individual, it is usually the result of an injury more traumatic in nature.

It’s interesting to note that 35% of people over the age of 30 will have a disc herniation in their lifetime, even if it remains asymptomatic.

What are the Symptoms of Disc Herniation? 

Disc herniation may occur anywhere along the spine and is not limited to one particular area. Therefore, most people have a tendency to describe the pain in multiple ways, depending on how their bodies personally respond and where the herniation occurs.

Back pain is a common result of disc herniation, and is often described as either a deep ache or a sharp prick.  Pain may take place in the neck, legs, and arms as well.

It’s possible that a person’s pain radiates down to his toes or fingers. If so, the pain could serve as an indication of sciatica, which typically involves muscle tingling and weakness.

How is Disc Herniation Treated?

Initially, disc herniation is treated very conservatively. Almost 80% of patients will heal with a combination of anti-inflammatories, pain medication, and physical therapy.

If a patient does not show improvement, nerve studies and MRIs may be conducted. More drastic measures may also be considered, such as steroid injections to decrease inflammation. Surgery may be an option as well.

If you believe you or a loved one is suffering from disc herniation, or have specific questions about disc herniation surgery or non-invasive options, I encourage you to schedule an appointment today.