Herniated Disc – Cervical or Lumbar
Between each vertebra a disc, made up of connective tissues holding vertebrae together, acts as a cushion or a shock absorber for the spine. The disc is made of a tough outer layer and a gel-like center. Normal everyday pressure on the disc forces its outer later to bulge slightly. However, as we age the disc’s gel-like center may lose fluid becoming less flexible. This can cause the disc to shift or bulge “herniate” through the outer layer causing pain as it presses against the spinal nerves. A herniated disc may also be the result of a spinal injury causing tears or cracks in the disc’s outer layer, the jellylike disc fluid may be forced to bulge, rupture, or even break into fragments.
A herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine but most commonly occur in the lower back (lumbar). They can also occur in the neck (cervical) area however; rarely do herniated discs occur in the upper back (thoracic) area.
What causes a herniated disc?
A herniated disc caused by wear and tear, also known as disc degeneration or injury, affects mainly persons between the ages of 30 – 50. There are particular behaviors and conditions that can weaken spinal discs.
- Improper lifting
- Excessive body weight
- Sudden pressure (even slight)
- Repetitive strenuous activities
Most people will recover from a herniated disc without surgery. Physicians may prescribe non-surgical treatments including anti-inflammatory medications, pain management, physical therapy, or steroid injection therapy prior to considering surgery.
The most common surgical procedure performed to correct a herniated disc is called a "discectomy" or "partial discectomy". To clearly access the damaged disc it may be necessary to remove a small portion of vertebrae bone. Many times discectomy can be performed using minimally-invasive surgical techniques, reducing pain and shortening recovery time.