The discs in your spine consist of an outer layer made of cartilage and a center filled with elastic material. A herniated disc is characterized by cracks in the discs that cause the elastic center to squeeze out, which irritates nearby nerves and causes pain.
What are the symptoms?
Some people experience no symptoms from a herniated disc. The symptoms that you experience and the degree of your pain are often related to the placement of the disc that is affected on your spine. A herniated disc in your lower back can cause pain in your buttocks, arm, or leg. A herniated disc in your back can cause pain in your shoulder or arm, and pain that shoots down your arm when you cough or sneeze. Additionally, a herniated disc can cause you to experience numbness or weakness in your limbs.
What are the causes of disc herniation?
While pressure from an injury, a fall, or frequent heavy lifting can cause a herniated disc, the condition can also occur from aging and general wear and tear. As you age, your discs become thinner and weaker. They also lose water content, which makes them less flexible. Extra weight can also put additional stress on your back and lead to a herniated disc.
How is it treated?
Treatment for a herniated disc involves pain management. A selective nerve block can be used to relieve pain by delivering a local anesthetic and/or steroid to the space around the nerve root, which prevents pain signals from reaching the brain. Your doctor may choose to use a needle to remove the pressure placed on the disc’s tissue to get rid of the pain, which is a method referred to as percutaneous disc decompression. For a lumbar herniated disc, an epidural — which delivers medication to the fluid that surrounds your spinal cord — can also relieve pain.