What Causes a Herniated Disc and What Is the Best Treatment?

A herniated disc occurs when one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual bones of the spine (vertebrae) becomes injured. Herniated discs are most common in the lower back and neck and can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the arm or leg.

Common causes of herniated discs

There are many causes of herniated discs, the most common are:

  • Age-related wear and tear
    Disc herniation is most common in older adults as a result of age-related wear and tear (also known as disc degeneration). As you age, your spinal discs naturally lose water content, making them less flexible and more susceptible to herniation.
  • Injury
    Sudden jerking movements, lifting a heavy object incorrectly or twisting your back in an unnatural way can all cause a herniated disc.
  • A combination of degeneration and injury
    If your spinal discs are weakened due to age, wear and tear or a previous injury, you are more prone to disc herniation.

Best treatment options for herniated discs

Treatment for herniated discs should be individualized based on the source and severity of the pain as well as the symptoms you are experiencing. While not every herniated disc requires medical intervention, when needed, treatment options include:

  • Pain Management with medications
    Mild to moderate pain can typically be managed through over-the-counter medications (e.g., Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve, etc). For severe pain your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants or muscle relaxers—depending on the type of pain you are experiencing.
  • Pain Management with injections
    Precise injections (e.g., epidural steroid injection, selective nerve root block, or facet joint blocks) often help lessens pain and inflammation associated with a herniated disc.
  • Physical therapy
    If your pain persists for more than a few weeks, your doctor may recommend physical therapy, which includes positions and exercises that may help reduce the pain associated with a herniated disc. To compliment physical therapy, alternative treatments like massage, yoga or acupuncture may also help ease chronic back pain.
  • Surgery
    Surgery is always considered a last resort to resolve pain from a herniated disc. However, if all conservative treatments have been unsuccessful after six weeks, your doctor may recommend surgery. This is particularly true if there are no noticeable improvements in pain alleviation or associated neurologic deficits.

If surgery is required to alleviate your pain and discomfort, the skilled neurosurgeons at Neurosurgery & Spine Consultants use only the most minimally invasive laser techniques. Our minimally invasive procedures are performed in an outpatient setting and offer faster recovery times as well as smaller incisions.

If you are experiencing pain, weakness or numbness in your arms or legs, contact Neurosurgery & Spine Consultants. Our skilled neurosurgeons have over 30 years’ experience with herniated disc treatment in San Antonio. Call 210-255-8935 to schedule an appointment.