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Patient Education

Disc herniation

A herniated disc, also called a “slipped” or “ruptured” disc, is a common cause of neck or back pain. Spinal discs are soft, rubbery pads located between each vertebra that allows the spine to bend and flex, while also acting as a shock absorber. Spinal discs also act as ligaments that hold the vertebrae of the spine together.


Each disc is designed like a jelly donut. There is a tough outer ring of cartilage (annulus fibrosus) that surrounds a soft inner gel-like core (nucleus pulposus). A herniated disc occurs when the outer portion of the disc ruptures or tears, and the jelly-like core squeezes out. As the jelly-like nucleus pushes against, or compresses, sensitive spinal nerves, patients will experience pain, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs.Symptoms Lower Back PainThe most common symptom of a herniated disc is sciatica, or a sharp, shooting pain down the back of the leg caused by pressure on the spinal nerve. Other symptoms may include:

  • Back pain
  • Weakness in the leg / foot
  • Tingling or numbness in the leg / foot

Neck Pain

Pressure placed on a nerve in the neck causes pain between the neck and shoulder, resulting in shooting pain down the arm. Other symptoms may include:

  • Weakness in one arm
  • Tingling or numbness in one arm
  • Burning pain in the shoulder, neck, or arm

Treatment Options

Nonsurgical treatment is effective in treating the symptoms of a herniated disc for most patients. Most neck and back pain will gradually resolve by taking conservative measures, including:

  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Cold compresses and ice therapy
  • Heating may be used after spasms have settled
  • Epidural injections
  • Physical therapy

Physical activity should be slow and controlled, especially when bending forward and lifting. Avoid sitting for long periods of time and taking short walks can help as well.

Surgical Intervention

A very small percentage of patients require surgery following a herniated disc.

  • Lumbar Microdiscectomy: involves removing the herniated portion of the disc and any fragments that are applying pressure to the spinal nerve.
  • Cervical Discectomy and Fusion: involves removing the entire herniated disc. Bone is then placed in the disc space and a metal plate may be used to help support the spine.




Of Note

The material on this website is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness regimen. No representation is made about the quality of the podiatric services to be performed or the expertise of the podiatrist performing such services.

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