Herniated Disc

The bones that form the spine in your back are cushioned by round, flat discs. When these discs are healthy, they act as shock absorbers for the spine and keep the spine flexible. If they become damaged, they may bulge abnormally or break open (rupture), in what is called a herniated or slipped disc.

Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine, but they are most common in the neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar) spine.


Symptoms of Herniated Disc

When the herniated disc is located in your neck (cervical) you may experience pain, numbness or weakness in the neck, shoulders, chest, arms and hands. In some cases, a very large herniated disc in the neck may cause weakness or unusual tingling affecting other parts of the body, including the legs. 

A herniated disc in the lower back (lumbar) can cause pain and numbness in the buttock and down the leg. This is called sciatica, which is the most common symptom of a herniated disc in the lower back.

If you have weakness or numbness in both legs along with loss of bladder or bowel control, seek medical care right away. This could be a sign of a rare but serious problem called cauda equina syndrome.


Screening & Diagnosing Herniated Discs

Your doctor may diagnose a herniated disc by asking questions about your symptoms and examining you. If your symptoms clearly point to a herniated disc, you may not need tests.

Sometimes a doctor will do tests such as an MRI or a CT scan to confirm a herniated disc or rule out other health problems.


Treating Herniated Discs

Symptoms from a herniated disc usually get better in a few weeks or months. To help you recover:

  • Rest if you have severe pain. Otherwise, stay active. Walking and other light activity may help.
  • Try using a heating pad on a low or medium setting for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. You can also try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.
  • Do the exercises that your doctor or physical therapist suggests. These will help keep your back muscles strong and prevent another injury.
  • Ask your doctor about medicine to treat your symptoms. Medicine won't cure a herniated disc, but it may help with pain and swelling.

Usually a herniated disc will heal on its own. If symptoms continue, you should consult with a spine expert who may prescribe stronger medicine or physical therapy. If the herniated disc is squeezing your spinal cord or nerves and/or you are having weakness, constant pain, or decreased control of your bladder or bowels, surgery will be considered. In rare cases, an artificial disc may be used to replace the disc that is removed.


Meet our Herniated Disc Specialists:

Mohamad Khaled

4.9

Neurosurgery

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Medical Group at Hartford Hospital Department of Neurosurgery
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Enfield, CT 06082
Collin Dimler

 

Neurosurgery

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Medical Group at Hartford Hospital Department of Neurosurgery
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Meriden, CT 06451
Pedro De Oliveira Coutinho

4.7

Neurosurgery

Medical Group The Ayer Neuroscience Institute
Bridgeport, CT 06606
Kaitlyn Shortell

4.7

Neurosurgery

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Spine Wellness Center - Pain Management
Westport, CT 06880
Bernardo De Andrada Pereira

4.9

Neurosurgery

Medical Group The Ayer Neuroscience Institute - Neurosurgery
Norwich, CT 06360
More Locations
Mystic, CT 06355
Oliver Hulland

4.9

Pain Medicine

Medical Group The Ayer Neuroscience Institute - Neurosurgery
North Haven, CT 06473
Lauren Leyva

4.9

Neurosurgery

Medical Group Hartford HealthCare Medical Group at Hartford Hospital Department of Neurosurgery
Hartford, CT 06106
More Locations
Avon, CT 06001
Jesus Santiago

 

Neurosurgery

Medical Group Spine Wellness Center
Westport, CT 06880
Patrick Tomak

4.9

Spine Surgery

Medical Group The Ayer Neuroscience Institute - Neurosurgery
North Haven, CT 06473
More Locations
Meriden, CT 06451
Abraham Mintz

4.8

Neurosurgery

Medical Group The Ayer Neuroscience Institute
Shelton, CT 06484

Ayer Neuroscience Institute Spine Care