Demystifying Disc Herniations: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Nov 27, 2023
Demystifying Disc Herniations: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Disc herniations are a common cause of neck and back pain, affecting millions of people every year. But there’s hope. Learn about the causes and symptoms of this common spine injury and the treatments for pain relief and healing. 

Disc herniations are one of the most common causes of neck and back pain, affecting millions of people every year. 

At Addison Pain + Regenerative Medicine in Addison, Texas, our pain management expert, Dr. John East, provides comprehensive care for all types of pain conditions, including those that originate from a disc herniation.

In this month’s blog, we talk about this common spine injury and its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

About disc herniations

Disc herniations, also called slipped or bulging discs, are injuries to the intervertebral discs that separate the bones in your spine. These pillow-like discs cushion your bones, act as shock absorbers, and assist with spinal movement — allowing you to bend and twist your back with ease.

Having a herniated disc means the jelly-like center (nucleus) of your disc has pushed through a crack in the tough exterior (annulus). The herniation of the nucleus causes inflammation of the disc that may then irritate or pinch your spinal cord or a spinal nerve, resulting in painful sensations.

Causes of disc herniations

You can injure a disc during a traumatic accident like a bad fall or car crash. However, most herniated discs occur because of disc degeneration from aging.

Blood flow to your intervertebral discs is limited and they lose moisture and shrink over time. Age-related changes make your discs more susceptible to tears and herniations, even when engaging in normal activities like bending and lifting a grocery bag off the floor.

Symptoms of disc herniations

Disc herniations can occur in any part of your spine — neck, mid-back, or lower back — but they mostly affect your neck and lower back. The location of your herniated disc, along with the severity of your injury, determines your symptoms.

You can have a herniated disc and have no problems or pain, or only experience dull, achy neck or low back pain. But if the displaced disk irritates a nerve, you may have pain that radiates into your arm or leg. 

Herniated discs are also a common cause of sciatica, a nerve pain condition that causes pain that travels along your sciatic nerve down the back of your leg. 

Treatments for disc herniations

Like disc herniation symptoms, treatment for the injury varies and depends on the location, severity of your symptoms, and damage to your disc. In many cases, your disc may heal on its own and only require short-term over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication. 

Some patients may require more specialty care such as physical therapy or chiropractic care. For our patients who fail to get relief from their symptoms with conservative interventions, we may recommend platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections or interventional pain management treatments like an epidural injection. 

Neck and lower back pain affects everyone differently, even when the cause is the same. No single treatment for disc herniation works for all, and it can take time to find the right method or methods to help you get relief.

At Addison Pain + Regenerative Medicine, we’re all about giving our patients freedom from pain. If you have neck, back, arm, or leg pain from a disc herniation, we can find the solution you need to get relief from your discomfort. Call our office today at 972-380-0000 or use the book online button to schedule an appointment anytime.