Spine Association for Education

Herniated Disc

Condition Overview

As we get older, a lot of changes can occur to the 23 gel-like “shock absorber” discs that help separate and cushion all bones, or vertebrae, that make up our spines. In fact, nearly everyone has had a family member or a friend complain about a disc that’s “slipped,” “ruptured,” or “bulging.” But medically speaking, these words all describe the same condition: a Herniated Disc. This condition can occur whenever one of our discs becomes damaged, diseased, or begins to wear out. When this happens, it can irritate or pinch surrounding spinal nerve roots and produce a variety of painful symptoms.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms can include pain, numbness, and/or weakness wherever the affected nerve travels. By age 40, about 60% of us have some form of degenerative disc disease. Often, a Herniated Disc is associated with low back pain or pain that radiates down the leg.

Methods of Diagnosis

Typically, a basic physical or neurological exam and imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRI and CT scans, are used to diagnose a Herniated Disc.

Methods of Treatment

Initially, treatment can include rest, heating pads, ice packs, and over-the-counter pain medications. In more advanced cases, physical therapy and corticosteroid medications are used. Usually, over time, a Herniated Disc will heal on its own. In fact, only about 1 in 10 patients end up requiring surgery. For those considering surgery, several minimally invasive surgical procedures are available.


PLEASE NOTE: Because the content of this website is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor, S.A.F.E. disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based upon the information presented herein.

Find a Specialist