Back Pain Disc Replacement Center of Excellence Los AngelesHerniated disc, bulging disc, slipped disc, ruptured disc. Despite the different names, they all refer to the same thing: a potentially painful condition affecting the intervertebral discs of the back. These discs are made of two layers, a soft center and a thick, rough outer layer. When the inner layer of the disc begins to bulge or leak out, a hernia has occurred, often resulting in a great deal of pain for the patient.

If you think you may be suffering from a herniated disc, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Hyun Bae, a Los Angeles back and neck pain specialist at La Peer’s Disc Replacement Center of Excellence.

What is a Herniated Disc?

The term herniated disc refers to a type of damage that affects the discs between the vertebrae of the spine. These discs exist to cushion the spine while allowing flexibility and movement. When a disc is damaged, however, or begins to degenerate, a hernia can occur. This means the disc itself has bulged or broken open, allowing the soft center to seep out.

Herniated Disc Causes

There are two primary causes of herniated discs. Most often, it is due to a type of gradual wear and tear called disc degeneration. Disc degeneration refers to the loss of fluid in the spinal discs that occurs as we age. This loss of fluid reduces the ability of the discs to absorb shock and allow flexibility. Fluid loss also thins the discs and lessens the distance between vertebrae. The second reason for herniated discs is injury to the spine. These injuries can cause tears or cracks in the outer layer of the disc, allowing the soft center to leak out.

Herniated Disc Symptoms

A variety of symptoms can result from a herniated disc that is pressing on a nerve. The most common among these include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Sciatica

Sciatica is a combination of pain and numbness that occurs in the buttock and down the leg. However, if a hernia is not pressing on a nerve, the patient may not experience any pain at all.

Herniated Disc Diagnosis and Treatment

In many cases, a doctor can diagnose a herniated disc using a physical exam and an assessment of medical history alone. However, if a doctor suspects some other condition or needs to assess the specific nerves being affected, more tests may be requested. These tests include:

  • X-rays
  • Computerized tomography (CT scan)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Myelogram
  • Electromyogram
  • Nerve conduction study

Often, symptoms from a herniated disc improve with a few weeks or months of rest, rehabilitation and medication. Common treatments include the following:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Narcotics
  • Cortisone injections
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Nerve pain medication

If the bulging disc does not respond to more conservative treatment, surgery may be necessary. In many cases, the protruding portion of the disc alone can be removed. In other cases, the entire disc may need to be removed. When the entire disc is removed, the vertebrae may be fused together or an artificial disc may be implanted to restore function.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do I feel pain in my leg from a herniated disc?

A: The nerves that reach the legs originate in the spinal cord. Because of this, an irritation in the spinal cord can send pain down through the connected nerves.

Q: What is the best way to find out about my treatment options if I think I might have a herniated disc?

A: The best way to find out for sure if you have a herniated disc is to see a neck and back pain specialist like the ones at La Peer. Once you do, the doctor may be able to tell by a physical exam and assessment of your symptoms. If the cause of pain remains inconclusive, the doctor will prescribe the appropriate tests at this time.

Q: Is it possible to have a hernia and not know it?

A: Occasionally people do have a hernia without knowing it. This happens because either the hernia is not pressing on a nerve or the patient doesn’t recognize the symptoms as relating to a hernia.

Contact a Los Angeles Hernia Surgeon

Are you suffering from back pain or a degenerated disc? Do you think it might be a hernia? If so, contact Dr. Bae, a renowned Los Angeles orthopedic surgeon, for a consultation. Call today at (888) 309-2848 to see how La Peer can help you start to heal.

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