June 23, 2015
Surgical Options for Treating the Painful Side Effects of a Herniated Disc
More than three million Americans suffer from a herniated disc in their back each year. Surgical options are often the optimal solution for treating extreme pain associated with a ruptured or herniated disc.
The painful side effects of a herniated disc in the spine are usually the result of age-related wear and tear or degeneration in the spinal discs, but they can also be caused by a sudden trauma to the spine. While most herniated discs occur in the lumbar, or lower, region of the spine, they are also found in the cervical, or neck, region.
How Do I Recognize a Herniated Disc?
A herniated disc, or ruptured or slipped disc, occurs when some of the soft, jelly-like material of the disc is squeezed out through a crack in the vertebrae. This irritates the nerves in that area of the spine and often causes:
- Pain in the arms or legs when you cough, sneeze, or twist your spine
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Weakness of limbs impairing your ability to lift of hold items, or causing you to stumble
If you experience back pain that travels down your arm or leg; or if the pain is accompanied by weakness, numbness, or a tingling sensation, seek medical attention from a physician.
What Are My Treatment Options?
Non-surgical treatment options, such as physical therapy and epidural steroid injections, are often successful in treating herniated disc pain in the short-term. However, if your pain level interferes with your ability to perform daily tasks, there are several types of spinal surgery that may prove viable:
A microdiscectomy is a minimally invasive and very effective procedure for relieving herniated disc pain. The surgery requires only a small incision to be made in either the lower back or neck through which the surgeon removes the herniated portion of the disc and any fragments that are compressing the spinal nerves. The small incision and minimal soft tissue dissection result in less postoperative discomfort and faster healing.
- Microendoscopic discectomy
Another equally effective technique is a microendoscopic discectomy. The procedure, like the microdiscectomy, removes the herniated disc to relieve pressure. The surgery is done through a tubular device with a microscopic camera.
Both of these surgeries are minimally invasive and proven to relieve the pain caused by a herniated disc. Removing the ruptured disc alleviates pressure on the nerves or spinal cord, which relieves the pain without damaging lower back muscles. A bone graft is often inserted to keep the disc space at a normal height and to fuse the vertebrae above and below the removed disc, which can help prevent future injury.
What Are the Benefits of Surgery?
Studies show that patients with severe pain due to a herniated disc experience more long-term relief with spinal surgery than with prolonged non-surgical treatment options. Most patients notice a dramatic improvement in leg and back strength over the first several weeks following surgery, and usually enjoy continued improvement over several months.
Additionally, spinal surgery is more cost-effective than prolonged non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy, which insurance does not always cover.
If you are experiencing debilitating pain from a herniated disk, talk to an experienced spine surgeon about improving your quality of life.