Disc pain – herniated

What is a herniated disc?

In between each pair of vertebrae is a disc which acts like a soft cushion between the bones. If a disc is damaged, it may bulge or break open. When this happens, it is referred to as a herniated disc. It may also be called a ruptured or a slipped disc.

What causes a herniated disc?

A herniated disc may be caused by the wear and tear of the disc as you age or, by an injury to the spine. When this happens, the gel inside the disc can be pushed through the outer layer and cause the disc to bulge or rupture.


If the herniated disc is not pressing on a nerve, you may have a backache or no pain at all. However, should the gel come in contact with the nerve, irritation can occur. Extreme, sudden pain is usually the first symptom.

Although a disc may herniate in any part of your spine, most herniated discs affect the lumbar spine, or the lower back. Sciatica, which is pain and numbness in the buttock and down the leg, is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the lower back.


  • Physical therapy: If your pain has not resolved within a few weeks, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Physical therapists can show you positions and exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disk.

Treatments (cont.)

  • Chiropractic care: Spinal manipulation has been found to be moderately effective for low back pain that has lasted for at least a month.
  • Acupuncture: Although results are usually only modest, acupuncture appears to ease chronic back and neck pain fairly well.
  • Massage: This hands-on therapy can provide short-term relief to people dealing with chronic low-back pain.

Surgical solutions

In many cases, surgeons can remove just the protruding portion of the disk. Rarely, however, the entire disk must be removed. In these cases, the vertebrae may need to be fused together with metal hardware to provide spinal stability.


There are many treatment options available and your doctor can recommend which is best for you. Treatment options include:

Procedures / Surgeries

While rare, your doctor may suggest surgery if conservative treatments fail to improve your symptoms after several weeks.


Non-prescription pain medications: Your doctor may tell you to take an over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen (Aleve, etc).

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