Disc herniation is a rupture of annulus that surrounds the intervertebral disc. This is commonly called a “slipped disc.” The disc doesn't actually slip out of place. Rather, the material at the center of the disc has squeezed out of its normal space. Herniation occurs when the nucleus in the center of the disc pushes out of its normal space. The nucleus presses against the annulus, causing the disc to bulge outward. Sometimes the nucleus herniates completely through the annulus and squeezes out of the disc. This places pressure on the spinal nerves and surrounding tissue, and may cause considerable pain and damage to the nerves. Pressure on an irritated or damaged nerve can produce pain that radiates along the nerve or neurogenic pain. Herniation can cause mechanical pain as the discs and ligaments move with activity.
Herniation can occur in both the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (low back). It is more common in the lumbar spine (low back). In the cervical spine (neck), the herniated nucleus pulposus may cause neck pain and/or arm pain, burning, or tingling. In the lumbar spine (low back), it may cause low back and/or lower extremity tingling, burning, weakness, and pain. There are several non-surgical options that may be discussed with one of our pain management or spine specialists to address ongoing symptoms from this condition. Rest, low back support or bracing, anti-inflammatory or muscle relaxant medications, ice, heat, and physical therapy along with steroid injections may alleviate pain from herniation. If signs appear that pressure is building on the spinal nerves, surgery may be required, sometimes right away. Our Spine specialists can discuss the many minimally invasive and advanced procedures that may be considered for patients with disc herniation.