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Ruptured disc

What is a ruptured disc?

A ruptured disc — also called a herniated, torn or slipped disc — happens when one of the many springy discs that sit between the bones of the spine cracks or tears due to strain. The condition is relatively common, particularly in the lower or lumbar spine, and commonly occurs as the body grows older.

How do you receive a ruptured disc diagnosis?

A herniated disc is a common underlying cause of neck or back pain, and a physician can typically diagnose it by getting information from the patient regarding the severity of the symptoms and performing an in-office exam. In order to rule out other potential back pain causes and to precisely locate the affected discs, physicians may recommend an X-ray, CT scan or MRI test as well.

What are some common ruptured disc causes?

The spinal discs are tough but flexible due to their composition, which includes a fibrous, durable outer shell and a soft interior portion that has the consistency of jelly. When healthy, these discs absorb shock as the spine moves, compressing and springing back into place as needed. However, repeated strain, the natural aging process and sudden trauma (such as an impact sustained during an automobile accident or sports injury) can cause the outer shell to weaken. The inner material can then protrude or leak out into the surrounding area.

What are some typical ruptured disc symptoms?

Irritation at the site of the ruptured disc is a common symptom, but traveling symptoms are also typical when the inner disc material makes contact with a nerve root. Symptoms can occur anywhere along an affected nerve, often appearing in the extremities. Such complications can include:

  • Tingling or pins-and-needles sensations
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Burning or shooting pain

What ruptured disc treatment options are available?

The focus of nonsurgical ruptured disc treatment is managing pain and other symptoms rather than treating the disc itself. Physicians may recommend that patients rest for a short period of time and take medication to help with inflammation. As a longer term solution, many people find it helpful to exercise regularly, attend physical therapy sessions and perhaps have periodic epidural steroid injections to control pain.

When might surgery be needed?

Surgery is not the typical course of action for people with ruptured discs. Sometimes, the body heals with time, and many people find that a conservative treatment regimen helps them lead active lives despite their injured discs. For the few who don’t see improvement after weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment, surgery might be appropriate.

Many people are familiar with open spine surgery as one approach to ruptured disc treatment, but they may not be as acquainted with the minimally invasive spine surgery offered by Laser Spine Institute. If you’re ready to learn more about the procedures we perform at our Cincinnati surgery center, contact us today.