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Herniated Disc Therapy

There are many terms used to describe spinal disc pathology and associated pain, such as herniated disc, pinched nerve and bulging disc. All are used differently and, at times, interchangeably.

Rather than caring about which term is used to describe the disc though, it is more useful for patients to gain a clear understanding of the precise diagnosis. The diagnosis identifies the actual cause of the patient’s back pain, leg pain and/or other symptoms.

In identifying the cause of the patient’s pain, there are two general types of spinal disc problems. Pinched Nerve and Disc Pain.

Pinched nerve. When a patient has a symptomatic herniated disc, the disc itself is not painful, but rather the material that is leaking out of the inside of the disc is pinching or irritating a nearby nerve. This type of pathology produces pain called radicular pain (e.g., nerve root pain) leading to pain that may radiate to other parts of the body, such as from the low back down the leg or from the neck down the arm. Leg pain from a pinched nerve is usually described as sciatica.

Disc pain. When a patient has a symptomatic degenerated disc (one that causes low back pain and/or leg pain), it is the disc space itself that is painful and the source of pain. This type of pain is typically called axial pain.

Either of the above two conditions can occur in the cervical (neck), thoracic (upper) or lumbar (lower) spine. They tend to be most common in the lower back because the lower back bears the most torque and force on a day to day basis.

It is critical, in our office, that we accurately diagnoses the underlying cause of the patient’s back pain and other symptoms since the diagnosis dictates the treatment options.

Herniated disc facts

  • The discs are pads that serve as “cushions” between the vertebral bodies, which minimize the impact of movement on the spinal column.
  • Each disc is designed like a jelly donut with a central softer component (nucleus pulposus).
  • Abnormal rupture of the central portion of the disc is referred to as a disc herniation.
  • The most common location for a herniated disc to occur is in the disc at the level between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae in the low back.
  • If the disc herniation is large enough, the disc tissue can press on the adjacent spinal nerves that exit the spine at the level of the disc herniation.
  • The physical examination, imaging tests, and electrical tests can aid in the diagnosis of a herniated disc.

What are symptoms of a herniated disc?

The symptoms of a herniated disc depend on the exact level of the spine where the disc herniation occurs and whether or not nerve tissue is being irritated. A disc herniation may not cause any symptoms. However, disc herniation can cause local pain at the level of the spine affected.

If the disc herniation is large enough, the disc tissue can press on the adjacent spinal nerves that exit the spine at the level of the disc herniation. This can cause shooting pain in the distribution of that nerve and usually occurs on one side of the body and is referred to as sciatica.

For example, a disc herniation at the level between the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae of the low back can cause a shooting pain down the buttock into the back of the thigh and down the leg. Sometimes this is associated with numbness, weakness, and tingling in the leg.
The pain often is worsened upon standing and decreases with lying down. This is often referred to as a “pinched nerve.”

If the disc herniation occurs in the cervical spine, the pain may shoot down one arm and cause a stiff neck or muscle spasm in the neck.

If the disc herniation is extremely large, it can press on spinal nerves on both sides of the body. This can result in severe pain down one or both lower extremities. There can be marked muscle weakness of the lower extremities and even incontinence of bowel and bladder. This complication is medically referred to as cauda equina syndrome.

Common treatments for herniated discs

Over the years, most of the treatments for a herniated disc have included physical therapy, muscle-relaxant medications, pain medications, anti-inflammation medications, local injection of cortisone (epidural injections), and surgical operations. Most of these treatments have been unsuccessful in relieving the symptoms long term or at all.

The medications simply mask the problems and give the patient a false sense of security. The temporary relief of pain causes the patient to go about their normal activities, while causing more problems to the disc, without actually fixing the problem. When the pain relief from the medication wears off, the pain usually comes back much more intense
as the problem, cause of the pain, was never addressed and is now worse than before.

How We Treat Herniated Discs

Spinal Decompression
Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression is a revolutionary new technology used primarily to treat disc injuries in the neck and in the low back. This treatment option is very safe and utilizes FDA cleared equipment to apply distraction forces to spinal structures in a precise and graduated manner. Distraction is offset by cycles of partial relaxation.

This technique of spinal decompression therapy, that is, unloading due to distraction and positioning, has shown the ability to gently separate the vertebrae from each other, creating a vacuum inside the discs that we are targeting. This “vacuum effect” is also known as negative intra-discal pressure.

The negative pressure may induce the retraction of the herniated or bulging disc into the inside of the disc, and off the nerve root, thecal sac, or both. It happens only microscopically each time, but cumulatively, over eight to twelve weeks, the results are quite dramatic.

The cycles of decompression and partial relaxation, over a series of visits, promote the diffusion of water, oxygen, and nutrient-rich fluids from the outside of the discs to the inside. These nutrients enable the torn and degenerated disc fibers to begin to heal.

Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression is very effective at treating bulging discs, herniated discs, pinched nerves, sciatica, radiating arm pain, degenerative disc disease, leg pain, and facet syndromes. Proper patient screening is imperative and only the best candidates are accepted for care.

Call us today to see if this treatment is right for you


Herniated Disc Therapy | Body & Spine Solutions | (631) 675-2910