For more information, please see our frequently asked questions about herniated discs.
What is a vertebral disc?
The disc is the cushion between the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae. The disc is cartilage on the outside and a gel-like center or nucleus on the inside. The discs throughout the spine have three main functions:
- Acting as shock absorbers in the spine.
- Acting as supportive structures to hold the vertebrae together.
- Are cartilaginous joints that allow the spine to have slight mobility.
What is disc herniation or disc bulging?
The disc is subject to many external forces that can result in disc dehydration, disc bulging or disc herniation which can put pressure on the surrounding nerves. This can cause shooting, “radiating” pain from the neck into the arm/shoulder blade or the low back into the leg. Careful history, physical examination, and if needed imaging, can determine the cause and course of treatment. Treatment, in most cases, is conservative and nonsurgical. This is consistent with our philosophy that surgery may be indicated but it is not the primary approach.
Surgery options include lumbar discectomy surgery, a procedure that is performed to alleviate pain caused by a herniated disc in the lower back. The overall goal of this procedure is to remove the area of the disc that is pressing on the nerve. Once the portion of the disc is removed, the patient should experience relieving pain and normal function to the affected area.