Understanding the Anatomy of a herniated disc and the symptoms associated with it

Understanding the Anatomy of a herniated disc and the symptoms associated with it
September 17, 2013

Herniated Disc, Symptoms and Treatments

Vertebral Disc

It is important to know what a vertebral vertebral disc is to fully understand what occurs when it herniates. Simplified to a degree, a vertebral disc is located between each pair of vertebrae in your spinal column. It is made up of a soft gel-like substance surrounded by a tough exterior shell known as the annulus. This disc acts as a shock absorber, while also providing mobility in our spine.

What is a Herniated Disc

There are a few different ways in which a disc can herniate. As we age and the disc undergoes multiple minor injuries weak spots begin to form in the annulus. As the disc weakens further, the force needed to cause the disc to rupture or herniate lessens. When the inner gel material pushes through the annulus this is termed a herniated disc.

Is a Herniated Disc the Same as a Bulging disc?

Some doctors will classify them the same, but there is a slight difference. When a disc bulges instead of herniates, the inner material does not completely push through the vertebral shell, it just creates a bulge in the disc. Many people will suffer from a bulging disc without being aware of it, only when the bulge comes in contact with a surrounding nerve root will symptoms begin to appear. Material that pushes through a disc causes inflammation in the area that will cause symptoms similar of those found in a bulging disc.

Symptoms of a Herniated Disc

Depending on which disc herniated, whether it is in the lower back or in the neck, symptoms will either be felt in the legs or arms, as well as locally.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the area of the herniation
  • Pain that radiates along the nerves pathway
  • Tingling and numbness in the arms or legs
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Loss of control over bowel and bladder functions. This is a serious symptom that requires immediate attention. If not corrected early this may lead to permanent nerve damage.

Treating a Herniated Disc

Early herniated disc treatments include anti inflammatory medication, either over the counter or prescribed by your physician, ice and heat therapy, rest, as well as stretches and exercise to build muscles that support your back. Physical therapy may be prescribed as well and should be followed with as much effort as you can. The more you’re able to participate in your recovery the better and quicker your recovery will be. If after 2-4 months of treatment, you do not feel better, you should discuss with your doctor the possibility of surgical intervention.

Do you think you may suffer from a herniated disc, but you are not sure? Atlantic Spine Center has developed an online tool that will help diagnose back pain. Our one-of-a-kind online evaluation tool will give you a good starting point for understanding what might be causing your issue.

Use the free evaluation tool Here.