Disc herniation is most often the result of gradual wear and tear of spinal discs, which are the spine’s shock absorbers. When a disc herniates, it bulges or breaks open. While a herniated disc can happen in any part of the spine, it most often occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine.
Causes & Risk Factors
- Age: As we age, our spinal discs lose some of the fluid that helps them maintain flexibility. Wear and tear of the disc is an extension of disc dehydration and the natural progression of aging.
- Occupation: People with physically demanding jobs have a greater risk of back problems.
- Trauma: Injuries to the spine can cause tiny tears or cracks in the disc’s outer layer.
- Weight: Excess body weight places extra stress on the discs of the lower back.
- If a herniated disc presses on nerve roots, it can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the body’s area where the nerve travels.
- A herniated disc in the lower back can cause pain and numbness in the buttock and down the leg, called sciatica.
- A herniated disc that doesn’t press on a nerve may cause no backache or pain at all.
- A herniated disc in the upper part of the lower (lumbar) spine may cause pain in the front of the thigh.
- A herniation in the neck (cervical spine) can cause pain or numbness in the shoulders, arms, or chest.
- Tingling or numbness in one leg.
- Weakness in certain leg muscles.
- Pain in the front of the thigh.
- Weakness in both legs and the loss of bladder and/or bowel control.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
A herniated disc can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam and medical history. However, to pinpoint which nerves might be affected, your diagnosis could include:
- Imaging tests such as a CT scan or an MRI to confirm the location of the herniation.
- A myelogram can locate pressure on the spinal cord or nerves due to multiple herniated discs or other conditions.
- Nerve tests such as an electromyogram (EMG) or a nerve conduction test can measure how well electrical impulses move along the nerve tissue.
At PMIR Medical Center, we understand that pain is a complex condition that affects the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. We provide a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to treatment, customizing the most effective treatment plans for our patients and empowering them to become collaborative partners in their recovery process. Herniated disc pain management and treatment options we offer include (but is not limited to):