Herniated Disc Causes and Diagnosis

An Overview

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, is one of the most common spinal injuries. With over three million cases reported each year, this condition is a typical source of neck and lower back pain.

What Causes a Herniated Disc?

The discs, which act as cushions between the spinal vertebrae, are made up of soft, jelly-like centers and tough outer exteriors. A disc herniation occurs when the soft center leaks through a crack in the exterior, putting pressure on the sensitive nerves within the spinal column. This can occur anywhere along the spinal column but typically occurs in the neck or low back. This pressure or “impingement” of the nerves or spinal cord causes a radiculopathy or myelopathy resulting in pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs, arms or back.

Spinal discs have a high water content which can deplete over time, causing less flexibility and predisposing them to injury. This depletion may occur due to natural degeneration of the disc and it may be contributed to the following:

  • Excess body weight
  • Hard repetitive activity such as lifting, pulling or pushing
  • Incorrect lifting habits
  • Injury
  • Smoking

How Is a Herniated Disc Diagnosed?

After a complete medical history and history of symptoms, spine specialist Dr. Sandro LaRocca will conduct a physical examination to establish which nerves within the spinal column are affected. In addition, an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan may be performed to confirm disc injury or degeneration.

What Treatments Are Available for Disc Herniation?

With a multidisciplinary team approach, NJNBI and its network of spine specialists offer a variety of effective surgical and non-surgical treatment options for disc herniation, including:

  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion surgery
  • Injections for pain management
  • Minimally invasive microdiscectomy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Prescribed medications including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants or analgesics
  • Recommendation of rest, local modalities such as ice and heat, and over-the-counter pain medications