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Herniated nucleus pulposus

What is a herniated nucleus pulposus?

A herniated nucleus pulposus is another name for a herniated or ruptured disc. It is a condition that occurs when the discs that sit between the bones of the spine become damaged. These discs are composed of a jelly-like material (nucleus pulposus) surrounded by a tough but flexible outer shell (annulus fibrosus). In some cases, the outer shell becomes cracked and allows the inner material to leak out, potentially causing pain and other problems.

Herniated nucleus pulposus diagnosis

Diagnosing a herniated disc usually entails performing a physical examination and evaluating the patient’s history of neck and back pain. If, after these measures, a physician suspects a damaged disc is behind a patient’s symptoms, imaging tests may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

What causes a herniated nucleus pulposus?

A herniated disc most commonly results from the natural, age-related breakdown of the spinal elements, including spinal discs. The discs become more brittle with age, making them more susceptible to damage as the spine bends and flexes. The force of movement can cause cracks in the shells of a disc, allowing the gel-like material inside to bulge or even leak beyond the disc’s normal space.

Herniated nucleus pulposus symptoms

Not every herniated disc causes symptoms. However, if a bulging or herniated disc presses on a nerve root, localized neck or back pain can result, as well as traveling symptoms like:

  • Radiating pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Muscle spasms

Where these symptoms occur is determined by the location of the affected disc. For example, damaged discs in the neck can lead to problems in the shoulder, arm and hand. Damaged discs in the lower spine can trigger symptoms in the buttock, leg and foot.

Common treatments for a herniated nucleus pulposus?

Herniated nucleus pulposus treatments can involve resting for limited periods of time, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and participating in physical therapy. A small portion of people with a herniated disc may find that epidural steroid injections are an effective addition to their treatment regimen.

Can I get surgery?

Many people find relief from herniated discs through nonsurgical means, but some require surgery for symptom improvement. If you have tried other conservative treatment methods without significant change in your condition, surgery might be an option. In exploring the options available to you, be sure to research Laser Spine Institute Cincinnati and the minimally invasive spine surgery that we offer as an alternative to traditional open spine procedures.

To find out if you’re a candidate for the procedures that we perform, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review.*