What is a Ruptured Disc?




Intervertebral discs, which are located between spinal vertebrae, cushion and protect the spinal column as it moves and bends. Made from a hard outer layer known as the “annulus” and a soft, liquid-like inner material referred to as the “nucleus,” these discs act as shock absorbers and protect the spine from everyday stresses. When these discs suffer damage, the consequences can be painful and long-lasting. Oftentimes, problems with intervertebral discs can lead to other debilitating spine conditions, as the highly interdependent spinal column loses support and structure.

A ruptured disc, also sometimes referred to as a “slipped” or “herniated” disc, occurs when a tear or weakness in an intervertebral disc’s protective outer layer allows the inner layer to leak through its barrier and into the spinal canal. This can put pressure on area nerves, causing pain, discomfort and other complications. Ruptured discs are one of the most common underlying causes of sciatica and lower back pain, the latter of which is leading cause of work-related disability in the United States.

Ruptured Disc Causes

Aging, general wear and tear and deteriorative conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, are by far the most common causes of ruptured discs. However, several elements may encourage or intensify a ruptured disc, including:

  • Sudden injury, trauma or accident, such as that which may occur in a car crash, high-impact sport, hard fall or blow to the back
  • Frequent, improper movements or lifting, often incurred by individuals whose jobs require highly physical labor or driving long distances
  • Obesity or excess weight
  • Lack of exercise or regular activity
  • Malnutrition
  • Smoking and the excessive use of alcohol
  • Gender (men between the ages of 30 and 50 are highly prone to painful herniated discs)
  • Family history, genetics and congenital spine abnormalities

If you suspect that you may be at risk for developing a ruptured disc, schedule a consultation today with one of our renowned spine specialists. We will assess the health of your spine and provide tailored preventative measures to help you maintain long-term spine health.

Ruptured Disc Symptoms

Patient symptoms can differ and are dependent on where the ruptured disc is located within the spine. Usually individuals with a ruptured disc notice few changes until the displaced disc tissue begins to aggravate surrounding components of the body. Once there is pressure on a nerve, symptoms that may arise include:

  • Dull, achy pain or sharp, intense pain
  • Muscle tightness and cramping
  • Pain that radiates through the shoulders and arms or down the legs
  • Tingling and pins-and-needles sensations through the arms and hands or up and down the legs
  • Weakness in the affected area and limbs
  • Tenderness

Because the symptoms of a ruptured disc closely mirror many other spine conditions including cancer, spinal stenosis and bone spurs, it is important to obtain a comprehensive diagnosis as soon as possible. If you are unsure of the exact point from which your pain extends, we are able to use advanced pain-mapping techniques to pinpoint the precise location at which your discomfort is stemming.

In rare cases, a ruptured disc may begin to compress the spinal cord itself, which can be very dangerous. Individuals who experience fever or incontinence of the bladder or bowels should call 911 immediately, as a medical emergency may be occurring.

Our Minimally Invasive Approach

Attempting to engage in your daily routine while combating chronic back and nerve pain is no way to live. Fortunately, there are many methods to repair herniated discs and prevent subsequent injuries. The team at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® are experts when it comes to treating damaged and ruptured discs. Through personalized, professional care and state-of-the-art treatments, we are able to provide many individuals with full relief and evidence-based solutions to damaged discs and other painful problems involving the spine.

Upon your initial visit, one of our experienced spine specialists will carefully evaluate your medical history, physical state, symptoms and other concerns. Often, imaging tests like a C.T. scan, X-ray or MRI may be conducted in order to rule out certain conditions and to confirm the diagnosis of a ruptured disc. After ascertaining the location and severity of your disc rupture, we will build a customizable treatment plan to meet your unique needs and goals.

Frequently, we recommend patients consider conservative treatment options before resorting to surgical intervention. There are many advanced, research-proven therapies that can reduce or eliminate the pain associated with a ruptured disc or nerve compression. Some of these modalities include:

  • Therapeutic Exercise: By mobilizing the body in strategic ways, physical therapists can often reduce the amount of pain and inflammation experienced by a patient as the result of a ruptured disc. In addition, physical therapy can strengthen the muscles that support the spine. After targeted physical therapy, many patients’ ruptured discs resolve on their own.
  • Medication: Several anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications can provide relief from ruptured disc discomfort, allowing patients to be more comfortable as the disc repairs itself. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, we are able to precisely deliver medication using localized injections, ultrasound technology and even electrical stimulation to maximize the benefits of these pharmaceuticals.
  • Heating and Cooling Therapies: By heating and cooling the body in strategic ways, we are able to optimize circulation and the body’s natural healing processes.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: By temporarily using assistive devices (such as tailored orthopedic footwear), avoiding strenuous situations and making other minor adjustments, it is possible to drastically reduce ruptured disc symptoms.

If non-invasive treatments do not provide satisfactory relief, surgery may be recommended. Our minimally invasive procedures require only a tiny incision and generally allow for a much speedier recovery time than traditional open surgery. Additional benefits of minimally invasive surgeries include:

  • Far less pain
  • A reduced risk of scarring and blood loss
  • Minimal damage to surrounding muscles and soft tissues

From diagnosis to recovery, our goals are to give each patient the quality of life that they deserve, relieve their pain and compassionately treat their back, neck or spinal condition. If you would like to learn more about ruptured discs or Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, please do not hesitate to get in touch by filling out the form on this page or by calling us directly at 972-255-5588. We look forward to speaking with you!

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