The pain from a herniated disc can be severe, it can be mild, or non-existent. Symptoms vary between patients, depending on how the disc problem affects nerves in the area around it. Dr. Mikhail Solomonov of Pain Management and Anesthesiology of NJ in Cedar Knolls, New Jersey, usually treats herniated discs in a progressive manner, starting with conservative measures and advancing until your pain is gone. Call or click today to make an appointment.
The spinal column’s construction includes vertebrae separated by cushioning discs. These discs act as both shock absorbers and moveable pads that allow the bones of the spine to move without rubbing against each other. Each disc has a tough outer layer and a softer inner portion. When this inner tissue pushes out through crack or a tear occurs in the outer layer, the disc is herniated.
This herniation is not necessarily a problem. Some people who have herniated discs may be unaware there’s an issue and, over the space of a few weeks, the disc heals on its own. However, when the escaping inner layer presses on and irritates nerves in the spinal cord or those branching out from the spine, symptoms range from tingling and numbness, to severe pain that may be projected to other parts of the body.
Herniated discs occur most frequently in the lower back, though they may also occur in the neck. In each case, there can be pain at the site of the herniated disc, but depending on how the nearby nerves are affected by the herniation, there could be pain or symptoms in other parts of the body.
Lower back herniations usually cause pain in the buttocks, hips, and thighs. Even your calves and feet may be involved. Similarly, herniations in the neck can affect shoulders, arms, and hands.
The sensations you feel may not always seem like pain, or the pain may not always be consistent. Both aching pain and sharp, stabbing pain are common. Numbness or tingling sensations are commonly felt in parts of the body farther from the spine. You may also notice muscle weakness in these areas.
In most cases, pain symptoms resolve with rest and time. Dr. Solomonov advises rest combined with anti-inflammatory medications.
Physical therapy may also help strengthen the muscles supporting your back, which may, in turn, take pressure off nerves near the herniation.
If conservative treatments don’t produce improvement, corticosteroid injections often do.
Surgery is a last stage treatment. Dr. Solomonov prefers microdiscectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that typically removes portions of disc material that are pressing on the nerves. Some bone tissue may be removed in some cases to provide the nerves with more room.