Do you suspect a herniated disc is responsible for your back pain? Spinal discs are the round cushions between the bones of your spine that serve as a buffer and allow your spine to move and bend with ease.
These discs are fibrous and tough on the outside but have a gel-like substance in the middle. When that substance leaks through the outside of a spinal disc, it often puts pressure on a nearby nerve, causing pain.
Discs herniate when there’s excessive pressure put on the spine, often due to heavy lifting, obesity, or sudden twists or movements.
To help you get a better understanding of your symptoms, we asked our expert at Premier Spine Institute, Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, to explain the four stages of disc herniation. Here’s when it’s a good idea to see a specialist.
Stages one and two: disc protrusion and prolapsed disc
The first two stages of disc herniation (disc protrusion and prolapsed disc), are incomplete herniations.
During these two stages, the gel-like substance called the nucleus hasn’t yet leaked through the outer layer. Instead, the nucleus puts pressure on the outer tissues and causes the disc to protrude.
Stage one often doesn’t present any symptoms. At this time, the protrusion isn’t significant enough to put pressure on the nearby nerves.
Once you reach the second stage, you may begin feeling pain in the area where the prolapsed disc is located.
Stages three and four: disc extrusion and sequestration
During the third and fourth stages of disc herniation (disc extrusion and sequestration), the nucleus breaks through the wall of the disc.
In the final stage, not only does the nucleus leak out, but it begins dripping out of the disc.
In stages three and four, pain is often accompanied by tingling, numbness, and weakness in the nearby tissues. If you have herniated discs in your lower back, you may feel numbness, tingling, and weakness in your lower back and legs.
Herniated discs in the neck sometimes cause symptoms that radiate to the shoulders and arms.
When you should see a specialist
Most patients with herniated discs get better on their own. That said, if your pain doesn’t improve with rest and over-the-counter painkillers, you may be at risk for serious complications, such as permanent damage to the nerves in the spine.
Treatment options for a herniated disc include epidural injections, medications, physical therapy, and massage therapy. However, in rare cases, if a disc is severely herniated, Dr. Ngu may recommend surgery to replace the herniated disc with an artificial one.
Contact us to schedule a diagnosis, determine the severity of your herniated disc, and receive quick relief for your symptoms.