FAQ’s on Herniated Disc Treatment in Philadelphia

Discs are flexible, rubber-like pads located between vertebrae (spine bones) that make up the spinal column. A herniated disc can lead to serious back pain, leg pain, leg weakness, and numbness an extremity.

How common is herniated disc?

According to research, herniated disc affects 1-3% of the general population. This type of injury occurs most often in persons ages 30 to 50 years of age. Males are affected twice as often as females, and 95% of herniations occur in the low back region (lumbar spine).

What causes a herniated disc?

Discs of the lower back are made of a thick outer ring of cartilage (annulus), as well as an inner gel-like material (nucleus). These discs are filled with 90% water content, usually. When the inner nucleus pushes through the outer layers, this puts pressure on surrounding spinal nerves and irritates them.

What are the risk factors for a herniated disc?

With age, the discs of the spine lose water content. This decreases flexibility and size. The spaces between the discs become narrow due to this process. Risk factors that contribute to this problem include:

  • Improper lifting
  • Excessive body weight that puts more stress on the discs
  • Repetitive strenuous activities
  • Smoking

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

Low back pain is the main symptom of a herniated lumbar disc. Another common symptom is sciatica, which is a sharp shooting pain that runs from the buttocks down the back portion of the leg. Sciatica occurs when the herniated disc exerts pressure on a spinal nerve. Other symptoms include tingling, numbness, and burning of the leg and/or foot, and weakness of the leg. When the herniated disc is in the cervical (neck) region, it can cause arm symptoms, similar to those mentioned.

How is a herniated disc diagnosed?

To diagnose a herniated disc, the doctor will ask you several questions about your symptoms and take a medical history. In addition, the doctor will conduct a detailed physical examination to determine which nerve roots are affected. X-rays are taken to assess the degree of spine degeneration, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to located the exact location of the herniated disc.

How are herniated disc treated?

The treatment of a herniated disc depends on the symptoms and extent of injury. Options include:

  • Medications – Muscle relaxants are used for muscle spasms, such as Baclofen and Robaxin. For pain, the doctor will prescribe prescription strength anti-inflammatory agents, such as naproxen and ketoprofen.
  • Physical therapy – With therapy, the patients learns exercises to strengthen the back and stomach muscles. If the neck is affected, traction may be helpful. The therapist uses massage, electrical stimulation, heat therapy, and cold packs for pain relief.
  • Selective nerve root block (SNRB) – This is used for patients who have nerve root compression. The doctor injects a long-acting anesthetic onto the nerves to block pain signals. According to a clinical study, the success rate of this procedure is 80%.
  • Epidural steroid injection (ESI) – With this procedure, a steroid is injected between the spinal cord and the surrounding layer. The doctor uses x-ray guidance to assure correct needle placement. Clinical studies show this procedure to be 90% effective.
  • Radiofrequency denervation – For nerve root pain, the doctor uses a special needle with a probe to deliver radiofrequency energy onto nerve roots. This interrupts pain signal transmission. Based on clinical studies, this procedure offers long-term pain relief for radicular discomfort.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – This unit delivers mild electrical current via electrodes placed near the painful disc. According to research, TENS has an efficacy rate of 75-90%.


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