Herniated discs, often referred to as “ruptured” or “slipped” discs, are a common spinal condition affecting one to two percent of all adults with a peak incidence at age 42. In medical parlance, this condition is known as herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP). It may be caused by trauma, stress to the area or changes over time known as degenerative disc disease.
A herniated disc occurs when the cartilage shock absorber between the bones of the spine displaces into the spinal canal, causing compression of one of the spinal nerves.
If the outer rim of the disc (also know as the annulus fibrosus) is torn, the disc contents (nucleus pulposus) can press out into the spinal canal. When this happens, a nerve root can be compressed by the disc contents.
What are the Symptoms of a Herniated Disc?
The specific nerve root affected by the herniated disc will determine the exact area of the symptoms. There may or may not be associated back pain with this condition, known as disc herniation.
Symptoms of lumbar disc herniation (in the lower back) include pain that radiates from the back to the buttocks, thigh and calf; numbness or tingling in the thigh and calf; and weakness of the muscles that control ankle function.
Cervical disc herniation (in the neck) may cause pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the neck, arms or hands. In general, disc herniation symptoms often intensify with coughing, sneezing or sitting.
How is a Slipped Disc Diagnosed?
Diagnosis may be made with X-rays to rule out other causes, computed tomography (CT or CAT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or discogram.
What are the Treatment Options?
Non-surgical procedures are always preferred over surgery. These options include rest, physical therapy, medication, chiropractic care, and steroid injections.
Cardiovascular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and a regimen to improve strength and flexibility in the area of herniation may help relieve symptoms and prevent muscle spasms in the future.
When surgery is necessary, procedures may involve a cervical discectomy, lumbar discectomy, lumbar laminectomy or spinal fusion. Another option that Dr. Ahuja may recommend is a cervical artificial disc replacement such as the Mobi-C® cervical disc.