Life After a Herniated Disc

Life After a Herniated Disc

A herniated spinal disc may cause no symptoms if it doesn’t extrude into the spinal canal. But it’s likely to put pressure on spinal nerve roots, creating pain, numbness, and weakness along the nerve’s path.

When you’re struggling with symptoms, you may feel like there’s no way forward, but our doctors at Pinnacle Pain and Spine have treatments available from conventional to surgical to repair the damaged disc, relieve the pressure, and get your life back on track.

Our two interventional pain specialists, Dr. Matthew Crooks and Dr. Stuart Rammell, see many cases of herniated discs, usually in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) spine, since these sections move the most and are subject to wear-and-tear. 

But while you may feel stuck in your symptoms, we want you to know that there’s life after a herniated disc. Here’s what our team can do to help.

Background on your backbone

The human adult has 24 bony vertebrae in their spine, which forms the backbone, balancing your weight and allowing you to stand upright. Between each pair of vertebrae are spinal discs, containing a hard outer shell (annulus) and a gel-like interior (nucleus).

The discs have three functions: to absorb the shock to the spine from all types of movement, to prevent the vertebrae from grating against each other, and to permit you to bend and twist.

Discs are strong, but they’re not indestructible. Trauma to the spine — an acute injury or degeneration over time — can cause the shell to rupture. This allows the nucleus to leak out into the spinal canal, the area containing the spinal cord and cerebrospinal fluid. 

There, the material can press against nerve roots, and the affected nerve responds by sending out pain signals. It may also cause weakness and/or numbness in the extremity it serves.

Causes of a herniated disc

There are a number of common causes of disc herniation:

No matter what causes the herniation, the symptoms are the same.

Symptoms of a herniated disc

The best-known and most common symptom of a herniated disc is pain, which can range from mild and intermittent to severe and unrelenting. You usually feel it on just one side of your body, the side where the nerve root is compressed. It often radiates into an arm or leg along the nerve’s path.

Other symptoms you may experience include:

Each person’s collection of symptoms are unique to them, and some of these symptoms may be the result of other problems, which is why you need an accurate diagnosis before starting treatment.

Treatment and life after a herniated disc

If your herniation is mild, the disc will heal on its own with rest, time, and conservative treatments. Here at Pinnacle Pain and Spine, we always start with conservative treatments, which may include:

We also recommend lifestyle changes, including:

In a small percentage of cases, conservative treatments fail. In these cases, we may recommend surgery, such as a spinal fusion or microdiscectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that removes the extruded disc material to relieve the pressure on the nerve and decrease your pain.

You can live a pain-free life after a herniated disc, and Pinnacle Pain and Spine can help you achieve it. To learn more or to schedule an evaluation with one of our physicians, call us at any of our Arizona locations — Scottsdale, Chandler, or Fountain Hills — or send us a message online.

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