A spinal disc herniation, informally and misleadingly called a “slipped disc”, is a medical condition affecting the spine, in which a tear in the outer, fibrous ring (annulus fibrosus) of an intervertebral disc allows the soft, central portion (nucleus pulposus) to leak out. Tears are almost always postero-lateral in nature owing to the presence of the slightly weaker posterior longitudinal ligament in the spinal canal. This tear in the disc ring may result in the release of inflammatory chemical mediators which may directly cause severe pain, even in the absence of nerve root compression (see “chemical radiculitis” below). This is the rationale for the use of anti-inflammatory treatments for pain associated with disc herniation, protrusion, bulge, or disc tear. It is normally a further development of a previously existing disc protrusion, a condition in which the outermost layers of the annulus fibrosus are still intact, but can bulge when the disc is under pressure. This can occur in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine.
Your doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam and ask you specific questions. Depending on his/her exam findings coupled with your answers to the questions, he/she might order a CT scan (computed tomography) that uses x-rays to take detailed pictures of structures within the body. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) that produces cross sectional images of your spine to determine whether or not you are suffering from a herniated disc, might also be ordered. An EMG (electromyographic test) may be ordered to determine if the nerve symptoms being experienced come from the herniated disc or from some other pathology else where in your body.
If you have severe pain from your herniated disc, 2 or 3 days bed rest at most is recommended so your muscles remain strong, anything longer and your muscles will lose strength. If over the counter medication is not helping your doctor may prescribe other medications to help you with your pain. Physical therapy, pain management, traction and exercises can help in the recovery of a herniated disc. If your symptoms do not improve over the course of 3 to 6 months then your doctor and you may decide on surgery to repair your herniated disc, although, only 1 in every 10 patients diagnosed with a herniated disc actually have to resort to a surgical repair of the herniated disc.PROGNOSISIn most cases the herniated disc will be resolved with the treatment plan you and your doctor decide upon.
Sometimes even after having resolved the herniated disc the problem can re-occur and may need further treatment or surgery. If your herniated disc required a surgical repair than you could contract a post operative infection which would than need to be treated.
Through an unprecedented level of experience, success and compassion, our comprehensive approach to spine care stems from the belief that each patient deserves specialized and individualized treatment for their pain. Our board certified, fellowship-trained surgeons are recognized nationally for their academic contributions which have aided in technological advancements in spine care. Throughout the area they are beloved for their success with patients.