Herniated Disc Disease is a common medical condition that can affect any area of the spine. In fact, about one in three adults who have or have had back pain, actually suffer from some kind of disc abnormality, either Degenerative Disc Disease or Herniated Disc Disease. If you’re over 60, those odds increase to more than one in two.
While most common in the lower back, spinal disc herniation (a.k.a. “nucleus pulposus” or “slipped disc”) can occur in all three vertebral regions: lumbar, thoracic or cervical.
Individual spinal vertebrae join together to form the spinal column, which protects the spinal cord. Each vertebra is separated by a fibrocartilaginous disc that serves as a cushion and shock absorber for the spine. These discs allow the spine to twist and flex while keeping individual vertebrae from twisting, scraping together or locking up.
Picture a jelly donut. The outer layer is a fibrous ring, the annulus, which is similar to Kevlar. Inside the disc is a fibrous jelly-like substance, the pulposus. Over time, the annulus (outer layer) may be damaged, either by wear and tear or injury. When the tear in the annulus is large enough, some of the pulposus pushes through the outer wall. This protrusion – herniation – can press against spinal nerves, causing significant pain.
Herniated discs can form due to traumatic injury or wear and tear over time. When small tears appear in discs, the resulting scar tissue can weaken the outer wall of the disc, leading to more and larger tears. This is why the risk of developing herniated discs increases as we age.
Herniated disc symptoms can vary, depending on the location and severity of the disc rupture. Sometimes, there are no noticeable symptoms until the herniation results in additional injury. In fact, 28 percent of people over 40 already have a bulging disc.
Because symptoms of herniated disc disease can occur at any point along the spine and can also present as pain, numbness or weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, buttocks and legs, patients may mistake disc herniation for a “sore back” or a “stiff neck.”
To diagnose a herniated disc, Dr. Skaliy will conduct a physical examination to look for symptoms and test which areas may be affected. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, a CT scan or an MRI may also be necessary to make a proper diagnosis.
Treatment protocols will depend on the location and severity of the herniation. Smaller herniations can benefit from physical therapy, medication and rest. This conservative approach may relieve the pain, but it will not heal the actual herniation, meaning the injury could increase over time.
If the conservative approach is not effective, Epidural Steroid Injections may be suggested. While successful in reducing pain, epidural steroids will not correct the underlying medical issue.
To truly heal a herniated disc, you must repair the annulus and rehydrate the pulposus. Dr. Skaliy currently offers two treatment protocols that have proven to not only relieve pain, but also repair damaged cells in the disc.
Stem Cell Therapy is a minimally-invasive treatment that actually regenerates new cells to replace damaged cells. This procedure is relatively quick, pain-free and proven safe and effective. (Learn more)
To better understand herniated discs, watch this informative video: