Herniated Disc

Herniated-disc Herniated-disc

To understand a herniated disc, it can be helpful to imagine that the discs providing cushioning between the vertebrae in your spine are designed a lot like jelly donuts — a strong outer ring of fiber with a softer, more gelatinous substance in the center that acts as a cushion between each of your vertebrae. A herniated nucleus pulposus (the scientific term for a herniated disc) is simply a weakening and rupturing of the outer shell, or annulus, and the resulting movement of the softer inner material out of the disk, usually as a result of excessive strain placed on the spine. This strain can come from sudden, violent movement — a car accident, for example — or over time with repeated stress such as from heavy lifting.

While there’s a common misperception that most serious back or neck pain is caused by herniated discs, they’re actually a far less common cause than most people think.

Most episodes of back or neck pain are in fact caused by strain of the muscles and ligaments in your back or neck. The pain resulting from the strain of these soft supportive structures in your back or neck typically improve with oral analgesics and rest for several days. In contrast, pain from an acutely herniated disc can cause pain that may not improve with rest and medications. In addition to back or neck pain, disc herniations often cause pain, numbness and weakness in the leg or arm respectively. Treatments include simple observation, physical therapy, oral medications, injections, and in the most serious cases, surgery.

herniated cervical disc

A herniated cervical disc occurs in one of the seven cervical vertebrae (C1-C7) directly below the skull. While inflammation of the vertebrae can cause some pain and discomfort, most of the problems caused by a herniated disc result from pressure and friction on the nerves in the affected area.

Symptoms of a herniated cervical disc can include radiating pain into the hand, numbness or tingling in the shoulder, arm, or hand, and weakness of the arm or hand.

herniated lumbar disc

A herniated lumbar disc occurs in the lumbar section of the spine, the lowest section of the spine consisting of five vertebrae (L1-L5). While this sounds painful, a herniated lumbar disc doesn’t always result in back pain, since most of the problems caused by a herniated disc result from pressure and friction on the nerves in the affected area.

Symptoms of a herniated lumbar disc usually include pain, tingling, weakness, or reflex loss in one or both legs.


Diagnosis of a herniated disc usually requires imaging of the affected area with an MRI or CT scan to determine if the disk is damaged or ruptured, as well as the extent of the damage.

Spine condition visual

Treatment options

Treatment options range from observation and pain regulation to surgery, although treatment differs depending on both the patient and the severity of the herniation. In severe cases where a surgical solution is required, we offer the following options:

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Atlantic Brain and Spine A graduate of both Yale and Stanford, Dr. Jae Lim is a board-certified spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and robotic spine surgery, significantly reducing surgical impact and recovery times. (703) 876-4270
8501 Arlington Blvd. Suite 330
United States
Jae Y. Lim Ben L. Nguyen