The spinal column begins at the base of the skull and spans from the cervical spine in the neck through the thoracic spine in the middle back and into the lumbar spine in the lower back. The spinal column is flexible enough to allow for the full range of motion in the neck and back that’s required for daily activity and also strong enough to support the weight of the upper body.
Serving as shock-absorbing cushions for the spine, discs are positioned between adjacent vertebrae to facilitate movement and reduce friction. Each disc has two parts: a thick exterior composed of collagen fiber (annulus fibrosus), which surrounds and contains an inner core of protein gel (nucleus pulposus). These components are high in water content and must remain well hydrated and pliable in order to function properly.
For a variety of reasons, the discs can begin to deteriorate and dehydrate over time, becoming brittle and prone to breakage. If a fissure develops in a disc’s annulus fibrosus, some of the nucleus pulposus can pass through its compromised boundary. This condition is referred to as a herniated disc. Pain and other uncomfortable symptoms can develop if displaced inner disc material — which contains inflammatory proteins — irritates or pressures the disc wall, the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root.
Symptoms of a herniated disc are usually nerve related and will be felt in the extremities, depending on where the herniated disc is located. Nerve-related symptoms from a herniated disc in the lower back will be felt in the lower extremities, whereas symptoms of a herniated disc in the neck will be felt in the shoulders, arms, and hands. Symptoms of a herniated disc usually include numbness, tingling, burning pain, and a loss in reflexes/flexibility. As a herniated disc worsens, one will notice that symptoms worsen as well.
Herniated disc treatment will most often begin in a conservative measure, incorporating anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat treatments, exercises, and sometimes physical therapy. Only once conservative treatments have been exhausted should surgery be considered.
Dr. Theofilos offers a wide range of treatment options and due to his extensive experience in treating herniated discs, he is able to perform many advanced treatments other practices are unable to offer. If you are struggling with pain or discomfort, please contact our office to set up an appointment.