Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Herniated Disc

Most herniated discs respond to conservative therapies like modifying activities and taking medications to reduce inflammation and pain. Sometimes, however, disc problems can lead to significant issues with reduced mobility, worsening pain, and even permanent nerve damage.

Dr. Patrick Doherty and our team here at Yale Neurosurgery New London are well-known for our patient-first approach to treatments for spinal issues, including problems with herniated discs.

We share more about how a herniated disc can affect your health, and when we recommend you come in to see us for evaluation and ongoing monitoring and/or treatment.

Understanding the impact of a herniated disc

Spinal discs are small structures that lie between the stacked bones (vertebrae) in your spine. These discs have a soft, jelly-like center (nucleus) that’s surrounded by a tough, rubbery exterior (annulus).   

Aging, injury, and other issues can cause the outer disc covering to crack or tear. This allows the soft center to “herniate” or push through the rubbery exterior. Often, a herniated disc goes unnoticed since it causes few or no symptoms.  

In some cases, however, the bulging disc center presses on nearby nerves. This causes pain as the nerves become inflamed and irritated. It can also cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms or legs.

Left untreated, a herniated disc can eventually cause permanent nerve damage that may result in:

Note that disc herniation is often progressive, and individuals who have no symptoms at first can develop pain and other problems as the damage advances.

What causes a herniated disc?

A herniated disc, also described as a ruptured or slipped disc, can occur anywhere along your backbone but typically affects the neck (cervical spine) or lower back (lumbar spine). The herniation is most often related to the natural aging process and degenerative changes that cause the outer disc tissue to dry out and lose its thickness and strength.

Other causes of disc herniation include:

A family history of herniated discs may also increase your risk of developing disc problems.

When to call us

Back pain related to degenerative disc changes is a common complaint that typically resolves with a few days of rest and over-the-counter medications. We do recommend, however, that you schedule a visit with Dr. Doherty if your back pain lasts longer than expected or you develop:

Note that sudden loss or inability to control bowel or bladder function may indicate nerve damage that can become permanent without emergency medical care.

For an accurate diagnosis of what’s causing your back pain and the most innovative, effective treatment available for a herniated disc, schedule a visit with us at Yale Neurosurgery New London. Call our office in New London, Connecticut, or click the “request an appointment” button and choose a day and time.

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