A torn disc is an injured spinal disc that may or may not cause symptoms. The discs in the spine normally cushion the vertebrae as they move, but sometimes they become damaged and begin to bulge or even rupture. If you suspect you have a torn disc, contact your doctor to schedule an appointment for a proper diagnosis.
Reaching a torn disc diagnosis
A physician can arrive at a torn disc diagnosis by evaluating your specific symptoms and by performing an exam. Because the problems caused by herniated discs can also be caused by other overlying issues, the physician may request that you get an X-ray, MRI or CT scan to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possibilities.
Most frequently, torn discs are an indirect result of the natural aging process. As the body grows older, the spinal discs begin to lose some of their water content, leaving their exterior fibrous walls less elastic and more brittle and susceptible to cracking. This means that regular stresses or more dramatic impacts that the spine might previously have been able to absorb could cause the discs to rupture and release their interior gel.
Disc damage can also be brought on by repetitive strain or by sudden impacts to the spinal column.
Symptoms of a torn disc vary from person to person. Some people don’t even know that they have a damaged disc. Others experience pain that is a minor inconvenience. And a small number of people have very severe symptoms that can prevent them from performing their normal activities.
In more severe cases, the symptoms aren’t restricted to the immediate area around the disc. When the leaked gel-like material places pressure on a nerve root, problems can arise anywhere along the nerve pathway, with common symptoms including:
- Burning sensations
- Tingling or numbness
- Shooting pain
- Muscle weakness
Torn disc treatment options
Many symptomatic torn discs can be treated through a short period of rest, a regimen of anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and appropriate exercise. Some people also find it useful to have occasional epidural steroid injections to block pain signals. Alternative and complementary treatment methods that some patients have relied on for relief include chiropractic therapy, acupuncture and massage.
Torn disc surgery
Surgery is typically reserved for the small subset of people who have symptoms that are detracting from their daily activities and who cannot find relief through nonsurgical methods. The affected discs can be partially or entirely removed using traditional open spine surgery. They can also be addressed through minimally invasive spine surgery offered by Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeon+ can access the spine with a less than 1-inch incision, leading to an outpatient procedure with less risk of complication than traditional procedures.
For information about Laser Spine Institute’s Cincinnati location and the torn disc surgery options we offer, contact us today. Our dedicated team of Patient Empowerment Consultants can help you get a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.