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The Symptoms and Treatment for a Herniated Disc

Medically Reviewed by K. Brandon Strenge, MD | June 6, 2023

Nothing can hamper life like chronic pain—so it pays to figure out the cause. And suppose that pain originates in your back and travels down an arm or leg. In that case, you might want to contact a spine specialist about treatment for a herniated disc. Let’s discuss the details of this condition.


What is a herniated disc?

Your spine is, essentially, a stack of small bones called vertebrae. Tiny cushions, called discs, sit between those bones to help absorb shock as the body moves.

Each disc has a jelly-like nucleus surrounded by a tough outer layer, called the annulus. The disc becomes “herniated” when a part of the nucleus gets shoved through a tear in the annulus. Once this happens, the disc can press on spinal nerves, causing pain.

This condition can occur after a strain or injury, especially in older people because disc tissue degenerates with age. The symptoms of a disc herniation can include pain radiating down the arms or legs along with numbness, tingling, and sometimes even weakness.


How do you diagnose a disc herniation?

If you have symptoms that your doctor suspects could indicate a disc herniation, the best test for the condition is an MRI. This test will show the size and location of the disc herniation and help guide the appropriate treatment.


What is the treatment for a herniated disc?

After diagnosis, your physician will most likely treat you with conservative methods first.

For example, they may recommend avoiding strenuous activity for a few days or weeks to allow inflammation to subside. They may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help with inflammation and pain. Or your physician could refer you for physical therapy.

However, if medication and physical therapy don’t resolve the issue, your physician may recommend surgery. Traditionally, doctors perform a discectomy, which involves removing the herniated disc to take pressure off the nerves and relieve the symptoms.

In some cases, a discectomy may not be enough, and the doctor may recommend a fusion procedure, which eliminates motion of the spine in that area. A newer alternative has been developed recently called an “artificial disk replacement.” It can relieve pain but also preserves spinal range of motion.

Dr. K. Brandon Strenge has 14 years of experience treating spinal injuries and conditions and can answer your questions about treatment for a herniated disc. Call today and schedule an appointment so you can start walking without pain as soon as possible.